Originally from Tibet, the Sherpas moved to northeastern Nepal during the 1600s, and settled down in the Solukhumbu region — home to Mount Everest. Many Sherpa families migrated to Darjeeling, which had developed as a retreat for the British in colonial India, and took to lugging loads and palkis (palanquins) in the hill-town.
With Nepal off limits at the time, Darjeeling became the base for numerous expeditions in the Himalayas in the 1920s. While Everest was the ultimate dream, other 8,000-metre summits too were on most wish-lists. There was a need for coolies to carry the rations for these expeditions and, given their hardy background, the Sherpas were picked for the job.