The Sherpa people have existed in the region of Nepal for thousands of years. They are best known for a few things:
They are terrific mountain climbers due to a genetic predisposition for changes in altitudes, which science is only beginning to understand. Studies have shown their natural ability to push blood into their arterial veins, thereby moving oxygen to the outer reaches of the cardiovascular system, in spite of tremendous changes in altitude, is extraordinary and not fully understood. Being born for the mountains have proved to be pertinent to continued survival for this people.
They are from a culture where mountains are revered and respected with as much fear and dignity as they truly deserve, as a freak windstorm or unexpected snowfall has been known to destroy entire communities. For many westerners, the mountain is a glorious symbol waiting to be conquered, but the Sherpa understand the extent of the danger, and how one poor decision may be the last one you ever make.
They are excellent guides. The Sherpa have become a must-have for adventurers seeking to take on climbs through the Himalayas, notably Mt. Everest. Though it may be possible to survive, and in some cases, even reach the summit without one, it would be an inherently foolish act to try to do it alone. The Sherpa people have become such excellent and routine members of expeditions that the term “sherpa” has become synonymous with “guide”.
Sherpas are a people of tremendous dignity, tradition, and respect. More so, they bear a weight of cultural knowledge that makes them far more than invaluable to any expedition.
When climbing Mt. Everest, you had best bring a guide with you. A Sherpa might just be the best guide you will ever find, due to their natural ability, cultural knowledge, and specific experience.
The truth is, this isn’t just applicable to mountain climbing.
Any time you want to take on a monstrous challenge of epic proportions, it helps to have a guide. One with a natural ability for the task at hand. One with the cultural knowledge of the landscape you are trying to traverse (whether that be publishing, graphic design, or the sub-Saharan plains). And finally, most importantly, one with specific experience in the domain you are venturing into.
Not every trip to the summit should be done solo. In fact, most should be accompanied.
You can’t achieve that level of greatness on your own. You need a team, you need the right equipment, and you need a guide.
In whatever domain you find yourself, it never hurts to bring a Sherpa along.
HT: My amazing girlfriend who continues to act as a guide for me in many landscapes of life.