Mount Everest Takes its Toll on Sherpas

Sherpas, the legendary climbers of the Himalayas, have long been revered for their extraordinary skills and endurance. These remarkable individuals have played a crucial role in assisting foreign climbers in their quest to conquer Mount Everest, the world’s tallest mountain.

When examining the mortality rate among Sherpas, it is evident that their job carries significant risks. Surprisingly, despite the fact that Sherpas undertake the most challenging and dangerous tasks on Everest, their mortality rate is lower compared to that of foreign climbers. The overall mortality rate for all time among clients stands at 3.65%, while among Sherpas, it is 2.42%.

The impact of these statistics on the Sherpa community is profound. Tragically, about one-third of all deaths on Everest have been Sherpas. This striking figure raises questions about the safety and well-being of these dedicated individuals who contribute immensely to the success of mountaineering expeditions.

Since the first successful summit of Everest in 1953, more than 300 climbers have lost their lives in their pursuit of reaching the peak. Astonishingly, one-third of these fatalities were Sherpas. The primary cause of death for many climbers is the deadly lack of oxygen experienced at such high altitudes.

The higher death rate among guided clients, as compared to Sherpas, may be attributed to the clients’ relative inexperience and lack of familiarity with the treacherous conditions on the mountain. These climbers often rely heavily on their Sherpa guides for support and guidance. Nevertheless, the Sherpas, with their extensive knowledge and experience, demonstrate an exceptional ability to navigate the challenging terrain and mitigate potential risks.

A study published in the BMJ (British Medical Journal) sheds further light on the mortality rate among climbers. The research found that the death rate during descents via standard routes was significantly higher for paying climbers compared to Sherpas. The study reported a death rate of 2.7% for paying climbers, while Sherpas experienced a death rate of only 0.4%. These findings highlight the expertise and resilience of Sherpas in managing the inherent dangers of Everest.

It is crucial to acknowledge and appreciate the immense contribution of Sherpas to the world of mountaineering. Their unwavering dedication, physical strength, and invaluable knowledge make them an indispensable part of any climbing expedition on Everest. The risks they face and the sacrifices they make cannot be understated.

The percentage of Sherpas who have lost their lives on Everest is alarmingly high. Despite their vital role in supporting foreign climbers, they bear a disproportionate burden of the fatalities. The lower mortality rate among Sherpas compared to clients suggests that their experience and expertise play a significant role in ensuring their safety. As we reflect on these statistics, it is essential to recognize the immense challenges faced by Sherpas and the need for increased support and recognition for their invaluable contributions to mountaineering.

What Percentage Died Climbing Everest?

According to the provided data, the overall mortality rate for climbers on Mount Everest is 3.65%. This means that out of all the climbers attempting to summit the mountain, 3.65% have unfortunately lost their lives in the process.

It is also worth noting that the mortality rate among Sherpas, who play a crucial role in supporting and guiding climbers, is slightly lower at 2.42%. Sherpas are known for their expertise in navigating the treacherous terrain and providing essential assistance to foreign climbers.

To summarize:
– The overall mortality rate for all climbers on Mount Everest is 3.65%.
– The mortality rate specifically among Sherpas is 2.42%.

Please note that climbing Mount Everest is an extremely challenging and risky endeavor, and these statistics serve as a reminder of the inherent dangers involved.

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What Percentage Of Sherpas Have Died On Everest Into Thin Air?

According to the available data, approximately one-third of the total number of individuals who have tragically lost their lives on Mount Everest are Sherpas. This statistic highlights the significant impact that climbing this treacherous peak has had on the Sherpa community. It is important to note that these brave individuals play a crucial role in supporting expeditions and undertaking the perilous task of guiding climbers up the mountain. Their expertise and dedication make them an integral part of the Everest climbing culture.

To provide a more comprehensive understanding, here is a breakdown of the answer:

– The percentage: Around one-third (approximately 33%) of the overall fatalities on Mount Everest consists of Sherpas.
– The context: The book “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer sheds light on the tragic events of the 1996 Everest disaster, where several climbers, including Sherpas, lost their lives. This event brought attention to the risks faced by Sherpas in the hazardous Everest environment.
– The significance: The high percentage of Sherpa deaths on Everest emphasizes the immense challenges and dangers associated with climbing this formidable peak. It highlights the sacrifices made by the Sherpa community in supporting climbers and facilitating their ascent.
– The role of Sherpas: Sherpas are experienced mountaineers who possess invaluable knowledge and skills necessary for successful ascents. Their involvement is vital in guiding climbers, setting up camps, and carrying essential supplies.
– The impact on culture: The repeated loss of life among Sherpas on Everest has undoubtedly influenced the culture surrounding climbing expeditions. It has brought about increased safety measures and a heightened awareness of the risks faced by all climbers, including the Sherpas.
– The importance of understanding: Recognizing the significant contribution and sacrifices made by Sherpas is crucial in fostering a respectful and responsible approach to mountaineering on Everest.

The one-third statistic serves as a poignant reminder of the risks involved in scaling Mount Everest and the important role that Sherpas play in this endeavor.

What Kills Most People On Everest?

The majority of fatalities on Mount Everest are caused by a combination of factors, with the lack of oxygen being the most deadly. Here is a detailed breakdown of the various factors that contribute to the deaths on the world’s tallest mountain:

1. Lack of Oxygen: The thin air at high altitudes is the primary cause of death on Everest. As climbers ascend to higher altitudes, the oxygen levels decrease significantly. This condition, known as hypoxia, leads to a decrease in the body’s ability to function properly. Severe hypoxia can result in disorientation, confusion, and ultimately, loss of consciousness, leading to death.

2. Avalanches: The unpredictable nature of avalanches poses a significant risk to climbers on Everest. The mountain’s steep slopes and unstable snowpack make it prone to avalanches, which can bury climbers under tons of snow and ice. These powerful forces of nature can cause severe injuries or fatalities.

3. Falls and Trauma: The challenging terrain, including steep ridges, icy slopes, and exposed cliffs, increases the risk of falls and accidents. Climbers can slip or lose their footing, leading to fatal falls or injuries. Additionally, falling rocks or ice chunks can cause severe trauma if they strike climbers.

4. Extreme Weather Conditions: The weather on Everest is highly unpredictable and can change rapidly. Severe storms, blizzards, and high winds can create treacherous conditions, making it difficult for climbers to navigate safely. Exposure to extreme cold temperatures, frostbite, and hypothermia are also potential dangers that can lead to death.

5. Altitude Sickness: As climbers ascend to higher altitudes, the reduced air pressure and oxygen levels can cause altitude sickness. This condition can range from mild symptoms, such as headache and nausea, to more severe forms like high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) and high altitude cerebral edema (HACE). If left untreated, these conditions can be fatal.

6. Exhaustion and Fatigue: The physically demanding nature of climbing Everest can push climbers to their limits. The prolonged exposure to extreme conditions, coupled with the strenuous physical exertion, can lead to exhaustion and fatigue. When climbers become too weak and depleted, their decision-making abilities become impaired, increasing the risk of accidents and fatalities.

7. Inexperience and Poor Judgement: In some cases, climbers attempt to summit Everest without adequate experience, training, or preparation. Lack of proper acclimatization, failure to recognize warning signs, or poor decision-making in adverse conditions can result in dire consequences.

It is important to note that these factors often interconnect and can exacerbate the risks faced by climbers on Everest. Mountaineers who embark on this challenging journey must be aware of these hazards and take necessary precautions to mitigate the dangers associated with climbing the world’s highest peak.

Why Is The Death Rate Of Climbers More Than That Of Sherpas?

The death rate of climbers is higher than that of Sherpas due to several factors:

1. Inexperience: Many climbers who attempt to climb mountains are often inexperienced and may not have sufficient training or knowledge about the dangers and risks involved in high-altitude mountaineering. This lack of experience can lead to poor decision-making and increased chances of accidents or fatalities.

2. Physical fitness: Climbing mountains at high altitudes requires a high level of physical fitness and endurance. Sherpas, on the other hand, are local mountain guides who are accustomed to the harsh conditions and have developed a higher level of physical fitness over time. Their experience and physical conditioning make them better equipped to handle the challenges of climbing.

3. Acclimatization: Acclimatization is essential when climbing at high altitudes to allow the body to adjust to the lower oxygen levels. Sherpas, being native to the region, have a natural advantage in acclimatizing to high altitudes. They are more adapted to the thin air and have developed physiological changes that allow them to function better at extreme altitudes. Climbers, especially those from lower altitudes, may struggle with acclimatization, increasing their risk of altitude sickness and other complications.

4. Knowledge and expertise: Sherpas have extensive knowledge and expertise in navigating the mountains, identifying safe routes, and dealing with unpredictable weather conditions. They are trained in mountain rescue techniques and have a better understanding of the risks involved. Climbers, especially those who are not accompanied by experienced guides, may lack the necessary knowledge and skills to handle challenging situations, leading to a higher likelihood of accidents or fatalities.

5. Exposure to hazards: Climbing mountains inherently involves exposure to various hazards such as avalanches, crevasses, rockfalls, and extreme weather conditions. Sherpas are familiar with these hazards and know how to minimize risks and navigate safely. Climbers, particularly those without proper guidance, may be more vulnerable to these hazards and may not have the necessary skills to mitigate or avoid them.

It is important to note that the death rate among climbers is not solely attributed to their inexperience or lack of skills, but a combination of various factors. Nonetheless, having experienced and knowledgeable guides like Sherpas significantly reduces the risk and enhances the safety of mountain expeditions.


Sherpas play a crucial and often overlooked role in the world of mountaineering, particularly on Mount Everest. Despite facing extreme risks and challenges, Sherpas have proven to be highly skilled and invaluable in guiding climbers to the summit. The fact that only 2.42% of Sherpas have died compared to the overall mortality rate of 3.65% for clients highlights their expertise and ability to navigate the treacherous terrain.

It is concerning to note that one-third of all deaths on Everest have been Sherpas, which not only reflects the dangers they face but also raises questions about safety measures and support systems in place. This statistic suggests that there may be a need for better training and equipment for Sherpas to ensure their well-being while carrying out their duties.

Additionally, the higher death rate among clients, particularly paying climbers, may be attributed to their lack of experience and familiarity with the mountain. The study published in the BMJ further supports this notion, indicating that the death rate during descents was significantly higher for paying climbers compared to Sherpas and all mountaineers.

Sherpas deserve recognition and appreciation for their immense contributions to the world of mountaineering. Their expertise, resilience, and dedication make it possible for climbers from all over the world to fulfill their dreams of reaching the summit of Mount Everest. It is crucial that their safety and well-being are prioritized, and measures are taken to ensure their continued success and protection in the future.

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William Armstrong

William Armstrong is a senior editor with, where he writes on a wide variety of topics. He has also worked as a radio reporter and holds a degree from Moody College of Communication. William was born in Denton, TX and currently resides in Austin.