The Sherpas who take foreign climbers all the way to the top, on the other hand, earned the greatest money, earning between $5,000 (PS3,960) and $8,000 (PS6,330) in a single season. However many years they serve, they can make up to $60,000.
Everest is not the only mountain where people work as sherpas. There are also sherpas working on Annapurna, Lhotse, K2, and others.
However, even though there are other mountains where sherpas work, none of them attracts quite the same attention from tourists than does Mount Everest. This is probably because it is in Asia and most people going there are already interested in China or India. But still, even though it is less popular than other places, Nepal is also a good place to find well-paid jobs as a sherpa.
Generally speaking, the higher you go on the mountain, the more money you can make. The lowest rank is "camp assistant", which pays about $300 (PS3, PS4) per month. At the top of the game is "sherpa", which means "guide". They usually guide about five to six people at a time and their salary ranges from $35,000 (PS3) to $120,000 (PS4).
While Western guides earn roughly $50,000 every climbing season, Sherpa guides earn around $4,000, barely enough to maintain their families. Although this is more money than the ordinary Nepalese earns, it comes at a cost: Sherpas risk their lives with each ascent. In fact, according to one estimate, between 2001 and 2004, about 15% of those who reached the summit died of heart attacks, strokes, or other complications.
Who are these men? Where do they come from? The first Sherpas came from Tibet itself, brought in by the Chinese government as labor forces to build roads and buildings during the 1950s and '60s. Some remained in China, but many others found their way to Nepal, where they worked as cooks, porters, and cleaners.
In 1996, a 26-year-old Sherpa named Ang Dorjee became the first foreigner to climb all 14 peaks above 8,000 feet in the Himalayas. He was followed by another Sherpa two years later. Since then, several other foreigners have joined them, including Dave Hahn, who in 1999 became the first American to climb all 14.
Today, there are an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 Sherpas working as climbers' guides in Asia. Most are employed by Western companies, but some remain independent.
In rare situations, you may be able to hire a personal sherpa to accompany you on the climb for an additional $5,000 to $7,000, with tip and incentives. Western-guided expeditions are "full-service" programs that are best suited for first-time Everest climbers or anybody looking for a little extra assistance. The price ranges from $45K to $65K.
The cost of hiring a sherpa includes food, lodging, and oxygen equipment. Because these services are an optional extra, not all guides will offer them. The quality of service varies between companies but most include transportation to and from base camp, help with climbing problems, and safety awareness training.
What does a sherpa do? A sherpa carries your supplies up the mountain and helps you down again when you return to base camp. They also act as a liaison between you and other climbers at base camp - helping you find friends, getting meals ordered for you, etc.
Who are suitable candidates for a sherpa job? You should be in good physical condition and have experience of your own with high-altitude travel and camping. People who work with sherpas need to be patient and understand that sometimes they may need more time to recover from the effects of altitude.
What qualifications does a sherpa guide have? To become a sherpa guide you need to be approved by a company that hires them.