Amuse Bouche

Then there was the yak, bought for fifty-five thousand rupees... and herded up by the Balti porters...... The animal came unwillingly, tugging at its rope. When the expedition tired of dal and chicken and hungered for red meat, the porters bound its legs one day and, as it lay on the ice, they slit its throat.

The blade was blunt, and it took several minutes to hack through the skin. The climbers who had gathered around to watch the ceremony cringed. One of them, Rolf Bae, offered his own knife but the Sherpas warned that no man should give away his knife unless he wants to invite bad luck. Spilling the blood of an animal in such a fashion was disrespectful to the mountain, the Sherpas said; instead they should butcher the yaks and goats at a lower altitude, farther down the glacier, and carry the meat up for the climbers. In the end, the yak bled to death and was skinned and its head was mounted on the rocks outside the cook’s tent.

from No Way Down (Life and Death on K2) by Graham Bowley.

·         Rolf Bae was one of twelve climbers, including Limerick’s Ger McDonnell, to die during that August 2008 climb.