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Sherpa cairn above The Pulpit Rock in Ryfylke, Fjord Norway
Photo: Andreas Gruhle /

Nepalese Sherpas can carry their own body weight for days. This is very beneficial for Norwegian hiking trails.

Published: 16 August 2017

Making rugged Norwegian nature accessible for more than just expert hikers and extreme sports enthusiasts is not a task just anyone could perform.

For more than ten years, the work has been carried out with award-winning precision by the representatives of a group of people who live in, off of, and for the mountains – the Sherpas, whose traditional home is in eastern Himalaya, India, Tibet, and Nepal.

The men who are tidying things up in Norwegian nature come from the last-mentioned country. They have already managed to leave indelible traces in our nation’s mountains, and the stories about their physical strength are enough to astonish the average Norwegian couch potato.

Sherpas working on a hiking stairs and trails
Photo: Haaken M. Christensen

Immense respect for nature

“The Sherpas are among the world’s most robust ethnic groups. They have amazing stamina and can work at the same fast pace for months. As a rule-of-thumb, they can carry their own body weight for days without experiencing fatigue. Of course, they can also carry heavy loads and cover great distances. In Nepal, I have seen some of them carry more than 200 kilos.”

Trail-builder, mountain farmer, and master carpenter Geirr Vetti is a prime mover in this field. For years – twelve, to be exact – he has arranged contact between Sherpas from Nepal and various trail-building projects all across Norway.

He believes the Sherpas’ intimate awareness of their surroundings is a perfect match for Norwegian conditions.

“The Sherpas are people of nature. They build trails in Nepal in the same way as they do here in Norway.”

Although the farmer from Luster in Skjolden received the Cultural Heritage Award from the Norwegian Directorate for Cultural Heritage in 2012 – partly because of his commitment to helping arrange work programmes, initiating projects and cultural monuments, according to the Directorate – it is the labourers from the east (“Sherpa” translates directly as “easterner”) whom Vetti praises when he talks about the work they have done together.

“They have immense respect for nature and life on Earth. If the rest of the world had a fraction of this respect, we would not have problems with the climate and pollution.”

He believes there is only one thing they might learn from us: “Organising.”

Mountain Goat of the Year – 2017

Geirr Vetti is not the only one who has won an award for this work.

Earlier this summer, when NRK’s “Summer Train” stopped at Åndalsnes, it was the Sherpas themselves who walked away with the award for “Mountain goat of the year”, which is awarded annually by The Norwegian Trekking Association and the Norwegian Mountain Festival to “recipients who have contributed to getting more people outdoors and on hikes in a nature-friendly manner”.

The award committee stated as their basis:

“They have made a major contribution to the Norwegian mountain heritage through their efforts to facilitate access. In Romsdalen, examples of this include the trail up to Nesaksla as well as various sections of the Romsdalseggen mountain ridge. The Sherpa people are humble in their relationship to the mountains, nature, and mountain-goers, which makes them worthy recipients of the 2017 Mountain Goat of the Year award.”

Sonam Sherpa accepted the award on behalf of his fellow labourers with pride and humility:

“Thank you very much. We Sherpas are a mountain people. And we are very happy to have the opportunity to come to Norway where we are building stone stairs in the mountains. I will take this award that we have received home to my people, the Sherpas”, he said to NRK during the award ceremony on the TV programme “Summer Train.”

New records

Indeed, it is not only aesthetic work that is being done as the Sherpas lay slab after slab of stone in a staircase-like formation. New records are constantly being set.

In Midsund outside of Molde, Norway’s longest stone stairs were laid up to the peak of Digertoppen Mountain, which is situated 527 metres above sea level. In Tromsø, the number of mountain-goers doing the hike up to Fjellheisen has doubled over the course of one year, and 100,000 fit hikers of all ages having climbed the mountain stairs in full vigour.

Hallingskarvet, Geiranger, Jostedalsbreen, and Ulriken in Bergen are just a few of the other sites that have benefited greatly thanks to the skilled handiwork of the Sherpas.

Geir Vetti does not hesitate to proclaim how proud he is of what they have accomplished:

“We have built more than 200 trails in Norway in ten years. At present, there are ten projects underway, from Tromsø in the north to Gaustatoppen in the south”, he says.

The mountain code

Whether you’re in the forests or the mountains, always follow to the mountain code when you’re hiking in Norwegian nature.

1. Plan your trip and inform others about the route you have selected.

2. Adapt the planned routes according to ability and conditions.

3. Pay attention to the weather and the avalanche warnings.

4. Be prepared for bad weather and frost, even on short trips.

5. Bring the necessary equipment so you can help yourself and others.

6. Choose safe routes. Recognize avalanche terrain and unsafe ice.

7. Use a map and a compass. Always know where you are.

8. Don’t be ashamed to turn around.

9. Conserve your energy and seek shelter if necessary.

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