Home' Greymouth Star : July 13th 2015 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Monday, July 13, 2015
We appreciate the value of the Letters to the Editor
column as a public forum for West Coasters and
welcome your opinion and suggestions.
Letters may be submitted by post, fax or e-mail and
must include your name, address, phone number
and — except for e-mails — your signature. Noms
de plume are not accepted.
Please keep your letters honest, respectful and
within 300 words. Letter writers will generally not
be published more often than weekly. The Editor
reserves the right to edit or not publish letters,
especially those that are offensive or too long.
Post to PO Box 3, Greymouth, fax to 768 6205 or
e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
uLetters to the editor
1787 - The North-west Ordinance is enacted
by Congress; outlining how the territory
north of the Ohio River will be governed and
evolve into states.
1793 - French revolutionary
Jean-Paul Marat is murdered
in his bath by patriot Charlotte
1822 - Greeks defeat Turks at
Thermopylae in Greece.
1837 - King William approves
naming of Adelaide after his queen.
1863 - Rioting against US Civil War
military conscription breaks out in New York
City, and about 1000 people are killed in three
days of disorder.
1922 - The France II, the world’s largest
sailing vessel, is wrecked off the coast of New
1930 - The first-ever soccer World Cup
competition begins in Montevideo, Uruguay.
1955 - Ruth Ellis becomes the last woman
to be hanged in Britain after she had
murdered her lover.
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
John Dee, English alchemist and
mathematician (1527-1608); Bob
Crane, US actor (1928-1978);
Harrison Ford, US actor (1942-);
Roger McGuinn, US guitarist-
singer The Byrds (1942-); Erno
Rubik, Hungarian inventor of
Rubik’s Cube (1944-); Deborah
Cox, Canadian singer (1973-).
“ If I were to wish for anything, I should
not wish for wealth and power, but for the
passionate sense of the potential, for the eye
which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible.
Pleasure disappoints, possibility never.” —
Soren Kierkegaard, Danish philosopher
“ If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just
and will forgive us our sins and purify us from
all unrighteousness.” — (1 John 1:9).
more than she
bargained for when
purchasing a bag of Fijian bananas from a
local distributor recently. There comfortably
perched on an appetising banana was a large
eight-legged spider, the most unusual she had
Quickly she place both the spider and the
fruit in a plastic bag, where it has become
someting of an exhibit. The insect is light
brown in colour, has a thin body about an inch
in length, possesses large prominent eyes, and
legs from 11⁄2 to two inches in length.
The spider is still alive and its owner would
willingly give it away to anyone interested.
Steps are being taken by a group of
Greymouth squash enthusiasts to have the
game introduced here. They hope to build up
sufficient support to warrant the calling of a
public meeting in the near future to further
Among those endeavouring to establish
the game in Greymouth are O wen Harrison,
Arthur Jamieson, Graeme Warnes, Kevin King,
Brian Hennessy, Brian Vieceli, Peter Phillips,
Ken Prescott, Tim Sullivan, Earl Johnsen, Alex
McDougall and Ian Tennent.
The game in New Zealand has been boosted
out of all proportion in the last decade.
The reason for the sudden popularity of
squash, explained a spokesman, was that
people who could not spare the time for other
sports keep themselves in reasonable physical
condition by playing squash two or three times
a week. For the regular sports participant,
squash is a pleasant but effective form of
training with a session lasting only 20 to 30
uFood for thought
Printed and published by the
Greymouth Evening Star Co Limited
3 Werita Street, PO Box 3, Greymouth
03 769 7900 (office)
769 7913 (editorial)
768 6205 (fax)
03 769 7913
03 755 8422
snow capped mountain
looming over the Swiss
mountaineering and ski
resort village of Zermatt
does not look like a killer.
The giant pyramid of rock will be the
subject of celebration this week, ablaze
with a string of 50 lamps marking the
route taken by the first alpinists to reach
the summit on July 14, 1865.
But the jubilation of the expedition’s
leader, British mountaineer Edward
Whymper, was short-lived when on the
descent, four of his party fell to their
Each year between July and September,
when weather conditions permit, each day
up to 200 mountaineers, including many
New Zealanders, attempt to climb the
mighty slab of mountain that has claimed
twice as many lives as Mt Everest.
Christchurch technician Andy Leslie
began the greatest climb of his life one
late-summer morning in September 2013.
The 4478m Matterhorn represented the
30-year-old’s greatest challenge — he
had just three years’ of rock and mountain
Aware of the mountain’s death toll,
Leslie was relying on rigorous training
and preparation to pull him through.
“I wanted the ultimate experience
and to climb a mountain people would
recognise,” he says.
“Everything in my life was lined up.
“I was feeling confident about my rock
climbing, I had some time off work, a bit
of money, so decided to give it a go.”
Knowing the fatalities on the
Matterhorn were heavily skewed to those
climbing without a guide, L eslie sought
the expertise of Wanaka’s Adventure
Consultants to help organise a guided
In preparation, he spent three days
getting to know his Dutch guide, Roeland
van Oss, and climbing peaks higher than
4000m with him.
“ You have to be able to trust each other
with your lives,” says Leslie.
The day before the ascent, the pair spent
the night at Hornli hut, 3260m above sea
level, the starting point for most climbs to
the summit. Up at 3am, they had breakfast
then joined the queue to begin the ascent.
“The pecking order was very clear,” says
Leslie. “Climbers with a mountain guide
were at the front of the queue. Those
scaling the peak unguided were at the
This format is for safety reasons as any
climber straying from the route becomes
a hazard for those below by dislodging
The guard in charge of the hut staggers
climbers’ departures to reduce congestion
on the knife-edged Hornli ridge, where in
parts there is space only for one person at
The procession of mountaineers winding
up the ridge is impressive, with each
climber wearing a head torch. This famous
‘head lamp parade’ is visible through
binoculars from Zermatt when the
weather is clear.
With a climb of this magnitude there
are milestones that must be met. Van
Oss had stressed to Leslie they must be
at Solvay hut by sunrise, otherwise they
should turn back.
That represents two-thirds of the
distance up the mountain, but only half
the climb time, as the remaining ascent
becomes more difficult.
With the first milestone met the going
got tough, as they reached the fixed ropes
(steel ropes bolted to the mountain face)
below the summit.
Only one person can pass at a time.
This creates a bottleneck and sometimes
appalling behaviour, as impatience
and exhaustion bring out the worst in
Leslie recalls some of the climb’s tougher
“On the last fixed rope before the
summit the altitude was affecting me
badly and it was hard to breathe. People
were coming down as we were going up
and it ’s not pleasant with crampons in
“Nobody speaks the same language so
we needed to be aggressive and just push
our way through.”
Leslie reached the summit in four
and a half hours and had a safe descent,
stopping at the Hornli hut before
continuing down the mountain to
Schwarzsee Hotel in Zermatt for the
Although conquering this Swiss icon
leaves climbers elated with success and
achievement, the Matterhorn’s deadly
history is never far from their minds.
On July 14, 1865, a seven-member
party led by British artist and climber
Edward Whymper reached the summit,
from where Whymper is said to have
triumphantly thrown rocks down the
mountain’s Italian side where another
party had been racing the British to the
But returning, one of Whymper’s party
slipped down a precipice, dragging three
others with him, an accident that was to
haunt the expedition leader.
Whymper and two others would also
have fallen if the rope had not snapped.
On his return, one of the men was accused
of cutting the rope to save their lives but
an inquiry found no evidence to support
Three of the bodies were recovered
but that of L ord Francis Douglas was
never found. Queen Victoria, wanting to
prevent any further loss of blue blood on
the mountain, announced her intention to
issue a general ban on Matterhorn ascents.
But the intended ban fired curiosity and
British alpinists began to flock to Zermatt
to make the climb. This was the start of
tourism in the mountain village.
This week, the first ascent will be relived
in an open-air theatre at Riffelberg, on
the mountain above Zermatt, as part of
the celebrations bringing the Matterhorn
story to life.
To commemorate the four men who
died on the first ascent, the mountain will
be closed to climbers on Tuesday and one
of the 50 lamps marking the inaugural
route will be red, to indicate where the
accident took place.
Those four will be remembered, along
with others who have lost their lives
on the Matterhorn, in a ceremony and
benediction of the Grave of the Unknown
Climber in Zermatt ’s haunting graveyard.
Despite the fixed ropes installed in the
1980s to reduce accidents, the Matterhorn
continues to be the deadliest peak in the
Alps and has claimed the lives of more
than 500 climbers.
Anjan Truffer, head of search and rescue
for the Zermatt-Matterhorn area, says the
number of accidents is declining. More
climbers are engaging a guide and he says
there is a greater appreciation of risks on
“ Very few accidents happen with a
Of the 3500 mountaineers who attempt
the Matterhorn each year, 65% don’t make
it to the summit, mainly because they
climb unguided, he says.
“One of the biggest challenges for
unguided climbers on the Matterhorn is
finding the path. It is easy to waste time
finding the right route, causing exhaustion
and becoming less focused, especially on
the descent, where most of the fatalities
As the Matterhorn has become more
popular, Truffer likens the mountain
congestion to a traffic jam and says too
many people, inexperienced climbers,
falling rock and softening snow are the
main causes of accidents.
He says search and rescue normally
attend 20-30 call-outs a year to rescue
climbers on the Matterhorn. On average,
four to five climbers each season do not
make it back.
To mark the 150th anniversary, the
Hornli hut, where climbers spend the
night before a pre-dawn departure, has
Built in 1880 with 17 beds, the new hut
can accommodate 130 climbers and will
be opened on July 15.
As the 150th Matterhorn
commemoration gets under way, those
taken by the mountain play a bigger part
in my mind.
The mountain does not discriminate. It
has taken one of our own.
My cousin, David Heymann, was
fatally injured in a fall on the Hornli
ridge, leaving his brave, stoic friend, Greg
Houston, to descend alone without ropes.
The New Zealand friends, both 27,
studied at Canterbury University, excelling
in economics and landing sought-after
positions at Treasury in Wellington.
Their talent took them to London where
their friendship grew, as did their passion
With plenty of mountaineering
experience under their belts, including
on Mt Cook and in the Himalayas, they
headed to Switzerland to climb the
Matterhorn in June 1989.
On June 11, it was early in the season
and the conditions were good so the pair
climbed to the Hornli hut in preparation
for an early morning start.
Two hours into the climb, as they
traversed part of the Hornli ridge, David
slipped in soft snow.
Despite trying to self-arrest with his ice
axe, he just kept sliding.
He did not stop, falling 1000m while his
helpless friend looked on. To Greg, David
was a speck on the Furg Glacier below.
In shock, Greg knew he needed to get
off the mountain. With no ropes — David
had been carrying them — he knew it
would be difficult.
Greg had the protection gear and belays,
some with as much as a metre of rope, so
he tied them together and managed as
best he could to stop himself from falling.
Down at Hornli hut he raised the alarm
and soon heard a helicopter overhead.
David’s body was recovered that afternoon.
Still at Hornli hut some hours later,
Greg was left to pack David’s belongings
and head down the mountain to the Swiss
resort village of Zermatt.
Checking back into their hotel alone,
Greg spent a harrowing few hours the
following day recalling the details of their
climb and the death of his friend to police
via a translator.
Greg walked out with David’s rucksack
on his back and told me he felt “ utterly
David’s funeral was held in London 10
days later, followed by a memorial ser vice
His ashes are scattered on Mt Cook.
British artist Edward Whymper led
the first group of climbers to conquer
the Matterhorn in an expedition that
ended in the deaths of four of the seven
Whymper visits the Alps for the first
time and is impressed with the unclimbed
Matterhorn. O ver the next five years he
makes unsuccessful attempts to climb to
the summit via the south-west ridge of the
Whymper decides to change his
approach to the east face.
Whymper, with Swiss guide Peter
Taugwalder and his two sons, Peter and
Joseph, British climbers Lord Francis
Douglas, Charles Hudson and Douglas
Hadow and French guide Michel Croz set
off from Zermatt, collecting equipment
from Schwarzsee, and begin their ascent.
Joseph Taugwalder returns to Zermatt
while the others continue their ascent.
Whymper and Croz reach the summit,
conquering the Matterhorn.
Descent and disaster
The party begin their descent, led by
Croz and followed by Hadow, Hudson,
Douglas, Taugwalder Snr, Whymper
and Taugwalder Jnr respectively, roped
together in single file.
Hadow, a less experienced climber, slips
and falls on to Croz who loses his footing
and also falls, pulling down Hudson and
Douglas. Whymper and the Taugwalders
manage to keep their footing but the rope
between them and the stricken climbers
Croz, Hadow, Hudson and Douglas fall
to their deaths down the north face onto
the Matterhorn Glacier below.
The three sur vivors return to Zermatt. A
group of climbers report having sighted
the bodies of the fallen men.
Whymper and a rescue party recover the
bodies of Croz, Hadow and Hudson from
the Matterhorn Glacier. Douglas’ body is
The world’s most dangerous peaks
1. Annapurna, Himalayas
The 10th-highest mountain in the world
has been conquered by more than 130
people, but 53 have died trying, making
it statistically the most dangerous in the
2. K2, Himalayas
The world’s second-highest mountain is
known among climbers as one of the most
3. Nanga Parbat, Himalayas
The world’s ninth-highest peak competes
with K2 in terms of technical difficulty
and has earned the nickname “ The Man
4. Kangchenjunga, Himalayas
Mountain fatality rates decrease over
time but Kangchenjunga, the third-
highest peak in the world, is the exception.
Death rates have reached as high as 22%
in recent years.
5. The Eiger, Swiss Alps
Nicknamed Murder Wall, this peak is
legendary among mountaineers for its
danger. — New Zealand Herald
Andy Leslie climbs the Hornli Ridge on the Matterhorn in the Alps.
The deadly Matterhorn
On the 150th anniversary of the first ascent, JANE JEFFRIES talks to a New Zealander
who conquered the mountain that has taken more than 500 lives.
Links Archive July 11th 2015 July 14th 2015 Navigation Previous Page Next Page