Tips and Tricks for Hiring a Sherpa in the 1950s!

In the Himalayan Journal No. 16, published in 1951, we could learn a little more about the working conditions of sherpas. In the following text, titled "Himalayan Porters", there was the chapter "Rules for the Employment of Sherpa Porters". Selected pieces translated into French. In particular, we find out what customers paid their carriers in the event of accidents. Compensation for Sherpas in the event of industrial accidents!

Difficult to have a precise idea of ​​what these amounts represent in our currencies today. But the comparison between salary and compensation in the event of an accident is possible. A wearer paid 100 per month who lost a frozen finger would earn 10 more. A single porter, hired for 3 months of expeditions could receive 300 wages. If he died on the expedition, his family could expect to receive 500. The equivalent of 5 months' salary.

Read also : Sherpas pay a heavy price for the exploitation of Everest

From the Himalayan Journal

The prices. For small expeditions and expeditions working mainly under the snow line: Sirdar, 5 rupees per day; Porter, 3 rupees per day. Half-price for porters returning empty during small expeditions. For longer term shipments: Sirdar, 150-175 rupees per month; Porters, 100 to 120 rupees per month.

Advances. 20 to 25 rupees per month; for example. For a three-month shipment, 60 to 75 rupees is the usual advance, which must be paid at least one month in advance. The amount will not be refunded if the shipment is canceled within fifteen days of departure. (…)

Food. For tours in Sikkim, porters provide their own food along the routes, but food should be provided to them off the main roads and above the snow line. It is also customary to provide them with cigarettes.

Equipment. It must be provided by the employer, especially in mountaineering expeditions. Some smaller expeditions have found it cheaper to pay porters a rental fee for the provision of their own equipment, which is generally good and mostly acquired from large foreign expeditions. The usual rental fee in this case is 20 rupees per month, payable to each fully equipped man.

Train. Third class rail fares to and from Darjeeling must be paid, plus 2 rupees per day for food.


Compensation rates for injuries or deaths of carriers were introduced in August 1950 by the politician in Sikkim:

Commitment to pay compensation to the sherpas

I hereby undertake to pay any porter, sirdar, or other servant hired by me for the needs of my trip, or his dependents, or failing that his closest living relative, an allowance of the scale below, in the event of death from meeting her or sustaining an injury during my employment:

Injury :

Partial or total loss of a finger or toe
(by joint or part of a joint lost or damaged)
10 rupees
Whether index, thumb or big toe 20 rupees
Partial or total loss of a limb 150 rupees
Loss of sight in both eyes 500 rupees
Loss of sight in one eye 300 rupees

Death :

Married man 1,000 rupees
Single man 500 rupees
Female carrier (married or single) 500 rupees

Illustrations © Gac – CC BY-SA 3.0

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