Why Do Sherpas Keep Dying on Everest?

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While the life a Sherpa on Everest brings a steady income to an otherwise poor region, the risks involved exceed that of any other profession.  The annual fatality rate for a Sherpa is 10x greater than that of a commercial fisherman, and is considerably greater than the fatality rate of a combat soldier.  So the question is:  Why do Sherpas on Everest keep dying? Outside Magazine takes a detailed look at the life of a Sherpa, what drives them to the mountains, and why so many never make it home (also, see the bottom of this post for a link to the full write up).

Sherpa fatality rates by profession

Sherpa Fatality Stats:

  • Fatality Rate for Sherpas:  1 in 100
  • For every 1 American death on Everest 7 Sherpas are lost
  • Many families receive little to no insurance money for their loss

We reported earlier this year on the fight that broke out on Everest between Sherpas and guides, another example of the results of high stress and even higher danger involved with climbing Everest.

Sherpa fatality rates by ethnicity

Companies are making some efforts to increase insurance benefits in the event of a catastrophe for the Sherpas, Nepal recently doubled the amount of required insurance companies must carry for Sherpas, along with the foundation of the Juniper Fund to help families who have lost someone on Everest.  But still, the danger remains.  Is it wrong for guiding companies to hire the Sherpas for their expertise in high alpine mountaineering? 

You can read the full report online from Outside Magazine here.

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7 thoughts on “Why Do Sherpas Keep Dying on Everest?

  1. Maybe it is telling that during the tragedies of the last weeks with the Iranian team and with Marty Schmidt and his son it was sherpas who who ascended undr tremended risks to their lives, if in these cases only to be the bearer of the final news , the demise of the climbers.

  2. It’s very sad. When trekking in Nepal, my friends and I had to deal with this major dilemma whether or not to hire sherpa guides/porters. On the one hand, we felt bad for them having to carry such heavy loads with their minimal equipment while exposing themselves to danger. On the other hand, that’s pretty much their only means of income, so not hiring them meant denying them an opportunity to make a living. I’m glad to hear the Nepalese government has increased their insurance, but the fact of the matter is, the companies tend to take most of the money anyway, giving only a small % to the guides/porters themselves. Would be interesting to find out more about what exactly The Juniper Fund does.

  3. Why not? they are not all skilled. they are not all well equipped. why wouldn’t they die at a pretty high rate? just another piece of the weight bringing the whole system down, I hope.

    1. and the statistics, the numbers of fatalities is not at all verifiable, likely not even an indication of the approximate truth.

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