Perhaps the most infamous example was that of David Sharp, an English mathematics teacher and mountaineer who died in 2006, a mere 300 meters from the summit of Mount Everest.
Attempting a solo climb, without either guide or Sherpa, Sharp began suffering altitude problems, starving of oxygen.
"He sat just off the climbing route, slowly drowning as his lungs filled with his own fluids while his arms and legs turned to ice," Savage said. "I think what disturbed the world was that approximately 40 climbers ignored this man's plight as they made their way to the summit," Savage said.
Savage and Torgler point out that after a death has occurred, commercial expeditions go on to record a successful climb in 80.6 percent of cases, but only 37.8 percent for the non-commercial expeditions.
"The Sherpa appear to embody and hold to the pre-commercial values of behavior, which has been weakened in the modern climbers, and is faintly visible in the non-commercial expeditions," Savage concluded.
Unlike commercial expeditions, a death in a non-commercial venture has a highly significant negative impact on the probability of success, indicating a willingness to stop or abandon expeditions.
"Given the multitude of anecdotal reports, books and newspaper stories about the behavior of modern climbers, these results did not come as a surprise to me," Savage told Discovery News.
"However, I was not expecting to find that the non-commercial climbers had started to weaken as well," he said. "The Sherpa may be responsible for the remaining prosocial behavior," he said.
Richard Salisbury, the co-creator of the Himalayan Database used in the study, told Discovery News he was not surprised by the findings, although he believes they need to be confirmed by further research and methods.
Savage and Torgler detail their findings in the journal of the Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts.