"Sadly, there have been many fights up there," Arnette said. "This one would have probably gone away except for the fact that Moro put out a press release. That said, the level of violence in this one seems unprecedented."
Peter Hansen, author of "The Summits of Modern Man" and Associate Professor of Humanities and Arts at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, agrees that the incident is emblematic of long-simmering tension.
"It raises a lot of bigger issues," he said, many of which stem from a very basic difference in the way Sherpas and Westerners approach climbing the mountain.
Whereas Westerners tend to approach the summit as a solitary endeavor -- in philosophy, if not in fact -- Sherpas recognize the achievement as a result of a collective endeavor, Hansen said. When Hillary and Norgay reached the summit, Norgay gave thanks to the mountain and all the people who had helped him along the way, Hansen said, whereas Westerners tend to view themselves as alone on top of the world.
Western climbers "may think of themselves as separate from the Sherpas, but climbing Everest requires collaboration even when you're seemingly on your own," Hansen said. "The point of my book is that we are all on the same belay. Even the climbers who were off rope, and who thought they were stepping over it, were still tangled up with it."
With the increase in climbers attempting to summit Everest, Sherpas may be becoming more and more frustration by the lack of control they have over the region they call home -- and resentful of being endangered by Western climbers.
"Sherpas may be trying to reassert some control over Mount Everest," Hansen said. "To reassert sovereignty. In Nepal there are discussions about a federal Nepali state called Sherpaland in the territory around Everest. They believe it's theirs, and they want some rights to the region."
A peace agreement signed after the incident should help cool tensions, at least temporarily, experts said.
"I do think it is safe to say there was a clash between culture, ego, pride, jobs and methods," Arnette said. "There is a lot of blame to go around and I am glad that all the parties at least met at Base Camp, expressed public regret."