Sherpas — Superhumans from Everest

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11 min readMay 22, 2022

They are immune to lack of oxygen and feel at home in the Himalayas. Nevertheless, they remain in the shadow of the climbers from the West. What is the secret of the Sherpas’ strength?

[Photo: Goutam1962, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons]

Edmund Hillary, a tall and bony gentleman from New Zealand, who in 1953 was the first person to stand on top of Mount Everest, almost died during his historic expedition to the highest mountain in the world. He was rescued by Sherpa Tenzig Norgay, a man shorter by a head but strong as a turtle from the Himalayan foothills. As the New Zealander was seconds away from falling into a crevasse, Norgay drove his axe into the icy wall, blocking the rope to which Hillary was attached. Soon the climber was sure: it was with the inconspicuous Sherpa that he wanted to form a mountain team.

Sherpa Tenzig Norgay and Edmund Hillary — [Photo: Kete Horowhenua : Horowhenua Historical Society Inc., CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons]

The year was 1953, and no man had yet seen the world from the top of Mount Everest. A few tried. He had already climbed Chomolungma — as the mountain was called in the nearest vicinity — six times: Sherpa Tenzig Norgay. He had an advantage over the others: above 5000 m, where the human body suffers torment, he felt like walking. No wonder he became part of a group of 400 people who tried to climb the mountain this spring. And it was he who, a moment after his partner Edmund Hillary, set foot on its summit. The quarter of an hour they spent there went down in history and made not only the New Zealander famous. The presence of Sherpa Norgay on the summit made the world interested in the mysterious people living in the villages around Everest, from whom one of the most outstanding climbers originated. Thanks to their natural physical predispositions, excellent knowledge of terrain and specificity of high mountains Sherpas are today considered superhumans who leave behind the most outstanding representatives of alpinism. At the same time, for decades they have remained in their shadow, underestimated and overlooked.

Tenzig Norgay, first conqueror of Mount Everest in 1953 — [Photo: SAS Scandinavian Airlines, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons]

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