Home' Greymouth Star : April 29th 2014 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Tuesday, April 29, 2014
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uLetters to the editor
1429 - Joan of Arc enters Orleans, France,
and defeats English.
1587 - English admiral Sir Francis Drake
enters Cadiz harbour and sinks the Spanish
1862 - New Orleans falls to
Union forces in the American Civil
1913 - Swedish engineer Gideon
Sundback patents an improved
version of the zipper.
1916 - The Easter Rising
in D ublin collapses as Irish
nationalists surrender to British authorities.
1945 - Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler marries
Eva Braun in a Berlin bunker, and designates
Admiral Karl Doenitz his successor.
1973 - Israel decides to expand civil rights
of its 336,000 Arab citizens.
1980 - Death of Sir Alfred Hitchcock.
1981 - Truck driver Peter Sutcliffe admits in
a London court to being the Yorkshire Ripper.
1998 - Israelis begin marking the 50th
anniversary of the founding of their country.
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington,
English soldier and politician (1769-1852);
William Randolph Hearst, US publisher
(1863-1951); Duke Ellington, US band leader
(1899-1974); Japan’s Emperor
Hirohito (1901-1989); Lonnie
Donegan, Scottish entertainer
(1931-2002); Otis Rush, US blues
musician (1935-); Jerry Seinfeld,
US comedian (1954-); Daniel
Day-Lewis, British actor (1957-);
Michelle Pfeiffer, US actress (1958-
); Andre Agassi, US tennis player
(1970-); Uma Thurman, US actress (1970-) .
“ If 50 million people say a foolish thing, it is
still a foolish thing.” — Anatole France, French
author and critic (1844-1924).
“Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptised
every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ
so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will
receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
— (Acts 2.38).
here as less of
a problem than
experienced in other
centres, amateur painters in the Greymouth
district are still turning in poor quality work
which is deluding an unsuspecting public.
“I’ve had no end of complaints about them,”
said experienced full-time Geraldine Street
painter and paperhanger Mr E O Haussmann,
convenor of a local group of union members in
This group, 12 strong, has had discussions
with national heads of the business and has
promised its support for a move to have all
master painters in the country registered.
Mr Haussmann added that if registration
was compulsary it would probably mean that
amateurs would be allowed to do work up to
the value of £25 but nothing above this.
As a part of an agreement made with the
Government to provide power to the Franz
Josef region by the time the new Franz
Josef hotel, at present under construction, is
completed about next November, the Westland
County Council has taken the first step to
provide electrical reticulation in the district.
A security rate for a loan of £15,000 to the
reticulation has been gazetted and the county
council has made a special rate of 1s in the £1
upon the unimproved value of all property in
the special rating area.
A concert was staged before a capacity house
at the Blackball Miners’ Hall recently. The
proceeds of the concert were donated to the
Christmas children’s fund.
The 22 items presented were well received.
All artists were on stage for the final item,
There Will Always Be a Blackball.
uFood for thought
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John Chalmers and Gopal Sharma
logging from Everest base
camp after 16 sherpas were
killed by an avalanche,
American climber Ed
Marzec lamented: “I am
shamed by our greed and
embarrassed by our lack of compassion.”
Expressions of sympathy and regret
were not enough, however, for the Nepali
guides who take breathtaking risks to help
western clients scale the slopes of Everest
and realise the ultimate conquest.
There was fury among the roughly 400
sherpas at base camp after the April 18
accident on the perilous Khumbu icefall,
the single deadliest disaster on the world’s
Chanting, pumping their fists and
threatening violence, a group of young
sherpas forced an expedition boycott that
now looks almost certain, for the first time,
to write off a whole season for hundreds of
The sherpa backlash, which had
simmered for years as a cut-throat business
expanded, could deal a blow to the
commercial expedition industry that took
off in the mid-1990s — pushing costs for
climbers even higher.
At the top of the Everest supply chain
are “clients” from around the globe who
pay tens of thousands of dollars to western
mountaineering firms. Then there are
Nepali middlemen and the government
who take a cut, shoestring local agents,
and finally the guides, who can earn as
little as $1000 a season.
Much of the sherpas’ anger was directed
at the Himalayan nation’s government,
which receives a $10,000 “royalty” from
every Everest climber in a group of seven.
After the accident it announced a payment
of around $400 to the victims’ families to
cover funeral costs.
“This is something of a wake-up call
for the government,” said expedition
leader Phil Crampton of New York-based
Altitude Junkies, who flew last week from
base camp to Kathmandu, the capital,
for emergency talks with officials on the
sherpas’ clamour for compensation and
higher insurance cover.
“It is a crisis moment for Everest, and a
crisis moment for Nepal,” said Crampton,
his face sunburnt from having joined the
team that retrieved the bodies of sherpas
battered by enormous blocks of ice on the
glacier above base camp.
The sherpa resentment is not aimed at
the government alone.
Three European climbers abandoned
their ascent to the 8850m summit last
year after a brawl with a group of sherpas
during which their tents were pelted with
stones and punches were thrown.
And last week many sherpas were
outraged that Crampton and another
prominent mountaineer, New Zealander
Russell Brice, had presumed to intercede
on their behalf with the government.
The big business that is now Everest
stands in stark contrast to the simplicity
of Edmund Hillary’s expedition in 1953,
when he and sherpa Tenzing Norgay
became the first climbers confirmed to
have reached the highest point on earth.
No one would argue that following in
their footsteps along the same South
Col route 61 years later is easy. But
climbers today can count on bigger teams
of sherpas, accurate weather forecasts,
sophisticated gear, rescue helicopters,
satellite phones and steroids to avert high-
More than 250 people have died trying
to climb Everest, which straddles the
border between Nepal and the Chinese
region of Tibet and can be scaled from
both sides in a season that is cut short
in late May by rain clouds cloaking the
But it has become gradually safer,
according to climber and writer Alan
Arnette, who says the death-per-summit
ratio dropped from 5.6% in the 1990s to
1.5% in the 2000s.
That has attracted recreational climbers
to sign up for expeditions with major
Everest guide companies, known as
“ wholesalers”, which charge clients
between $40,000 and $90,000, depending
on the number of guides and other
ser vices they want.
In a recent blog on the cost of scaling
Everest, Arnette said the most expensive
companies provide western guides — who
can command $10,000-$35,000 a climb,
according to two western professionals —
and some offer gourmet food, with one
promoting its sushi and another a five-star
Jon Krakauer, whose book Into Thin Air
told the story of a vicious storm that killed
eight people on Everest in 1996, wrote
last week that the statistics give western
novices a false sense of security about “a
preposterously dangerous undertaking”.
And before he died in 2008, Hillary
himself voiced disdain for the modern
processions to the top of Everest.
Elizabeth Hawley, a highly respected
chronicler of climbing in Nepal, says that
she now comes across people setting out
for the summit who have never climbed a
“Sometimes clients fake their
qualifications. And some irresponsible
wholesalers will take anyone,” said United
States-born Hawley, who arrived in Nepal
over half a century ago and still, at the
age of 90, collates data at her Kathmandu
Crampton said Altitude Junkies takes
only experienced clients: the 12 in his
team at base camp this month had
accomplished 41 climbs of more than
8000m between them.
What clients do not see is the contract
that the wholesaler is obliged by
regulations to take out with a Nepali
agency, which arranges everything from
airport transfers and domestic flights to
permits, porters and oxygen bottles.
According to one local operator, who
showed a contract on condition he not be
named, a wholesaler that charges its clients
$50,000 might typically pay him $35,000.
Wongchu Sherpa, an Everest summiteer
who now organises expeditions, charges
about $37,000 per climber with two
sherpas, making a profit of $2000-3000
on each client.
Sitting at the Rum Doodle restaurant in
Kathmandu, where the ceilings and walls
are festooned with yeti-sized cardboard
footprints scrawled with the names
and comments of climbers, he said the
industry is geared to make clients pay.
“Sometimes people think that if they
pay more money that means they have a
better chance of reaching the summit,”
he said from the top floor of the famed
restaurant in Thamel, a thicket of narrow
streets crammed with backpackers,
trekking gear stores and eateries ser ving
‘momo’ dumplings and ‘Everest ’ beer.
He said the wholesalers “make a lot of
margin”, which is justified because they
have marketing skills that local firms lack,
but the government has no visibility of
money raised abroad that fails to find its
way to Nepal.
Mountaineering is a key part of Nepal’s
tourism industry, which accounts for
about 4% of GDP in a nation whose
desperate poverty is hard to miss, even
in the capital, a dishevelled and polluted
low-rise city with potholed roads.
“ We are concerned that they are taking
more money there and paying less here,”
Tourism Minister Bhim Acharya said.
“ We would like to tackle it ... but not
make an issue of it now.”
Crampton said climbers spend heavily
at stores and hotels in Kathmandu, at
cafes up to base camp, and on helicopters.
“Pretty much all the money goes into the
country,” he said.
Prachanda Man Shrestha, a tourism
expert who was formerly in charge of
Nepal’s mountaineering department,
said wholesalers force price-cutting
competition on local agents, who in turn
squeeze the sherpas.
Some locals have become wealthy,
however, running businesses that stretch
from mountaineering to hotels and
“There are very strong and powerful
people in the agencies,” said a senior
government official, who declined to be
named. “All political parties have contacts
with them for donations. If you have
contacts, you can get contracts.”
The government says mountaineering
is free of graft, and that it sticks to a rule
that 30% of the climbing fees is ploughed
back into development of the Everest
region. It collected $3.3 million this year
from 334 registered climbers.
Many sherpas, however, believe that the
government — as one Nepali newspaper
put it last week — views the Everest
industry as simply “a milch cow ” and
cares little about their welfare.
Climbers, for their part, complain that
the government has failed to provide a
liaison officer for each team at base camp
— as agreed after last year’s scuffle on the
slopes — even though they are charged
for it. They said there were 39 expeditions
there recently but only three officers, even
as tensions mounted among the sherpas.
“They really don’t have much to do,”
said Crampton. “A lot of money goes
through the ministry of tourism ... where
does it all go?”
Sherpas, an ethnic group who live
mostly in the Himalayan mountains of
Nepal’s eastern regions, have always been
the backbone of Everest expeditions,
fixing ropes and ladders, carrying packs
and cooking for climbers.
They will often make 20-25 round
trips to take kit and supplies to advanced
camps, which exposes them to greater
risk than their clients. A team of “Icefall
Doctors” faces the most danger, setting
routes across the ever-moving Khumbu
Icefall, which Californian guide Adrian
Ballinger describes as a “corridor of
Depending on their loads, bonuses and
tips, most sherpas earn between $2000
and $8000 per season, and a few with
exceptional skills are paid as much as
However, Ballinger told Reuters
after giving up on his own expedition
following the tragedy that many
operators “at the bottom end of the
business” pay sherpas less than $1000
and insure them for the minimum set by
Marzec, a 67-year-old lawyer from Los
Angeles who had already forked out more
than $100,000 by the time he reached
base camp, believes climbers exploit
competition among sherpas to keep their
The idea that foreign climbers have
always had a callous disregard for local
porters is captured in a recent account
by author Wade Davis of a 1922 attempt
on Everest by Briton George Mallory.
When seven porters were killed in an
avalanche, the message sent down from
the mountain was: “All whites are safe!”
Still, a member of that same expedition
later wrote: “ Why, oh why could not
one of us, Britishers, share their fate?”.
And so it remains today that, while some
recreational climbers barely know the
names of their guides, professionals
feel a brotherly affection for the
That attachment stems in part from the
traditionally stoical and gentle nature
of the sherpa. But what puzzled many
climbers at base camp last week was
the aggression of a younger group they
described as “politicised ”.
Brice, the New Zealander, says many
guides now come from other regions
of Nepal — including parts that were
plagued for years by a Maoist insurgency
— and are sherpas by profession rather
than ethnic group.
“ We are seeing young boys from
remote rural villages,” he said after his
crisis meeting with the government in
There have been no suggestions that
the past week’s tragedy and base camp
drama will derail commercial climbing of
Everest, but together they could bring an
escalation of costs.
Arnette said sherpa fees would
inevitably have to go up and helicopters
may be used in future to ferry gear above
the Icefall, forcing up prices for clients
whose number may dwindle because of
increased costs and a greater awareness
“Climbing in Nepal has changed
forever,” he said. — Reuters
Sherpas sit at the base camp after a Mount Everest expedition was cancelled in Solukhumbu district of Nepal.
The thing about the good old days is
that they tend to be more old than good.
Yes, we once left our houses unlocked
when we went out, but we also allowed
teachers to flog our children when they
misbehaved and only Dutch-owned delis
sold wholemeal bread.
All things considered, we are lucky that
things ain’t what they used to be.
In the area of technology, we lap
up improvements so fast we can not
remember what things were like before
the improvement happened. Phone
boxes, anyone? Outdoor dunnies? I do
not notice people hankering after cross-
ply tyres. Gearless bicycles are making a
comeback, but as a style statement; no one
is arguing that they make for more efficient
So why did the vinyl long-playing record
escape being trampled in the march of
progress? Or, to put it more accurately, how
has it come back from the other side of the
brink of extinction?
This question presented itself when I
saw that Real Groovy, the country’s largest
retailer of new and used music (and much
else besides) was to hold a record store day.
It was billed as “a day for all those vinyl
lovers who know the gods of music are on
As somebody who buys music only
occasionally, I was only dimly aware of
vinyl’s return, perhaps because I have
a genetic predilection for looking to
the future, not the past, of recording
My parents lived and breathed music —
as young marrieds they bought a piano
before they bought a lounge suite — and in
the living room of my childhood were big
cabinets full of operas on 78rpm records
(the Ring of the Nibelungen would have
taken several strong men to lift).
Then came the 33rpm “long playing”
record (a luxury item at 25 shillings, which
is an inflation-adjusted $108).
Mum and Dad scrimped and saved for a
state-of-the-art Collaro turntable, only for
the invention of stereo to make it antique, if
not obsolete, overnight.
On it went, through cassette tapes,
CDs, digital downloads, personal stereos
weighing a few grams, entire music
collections stored in the cloud. How did we
end up at Real Groovy on Saturday with
punters riffling through bins of LPs?
Owner Marty O’Donnell explains that
vinyl never died — it was just sleeping.
“ We never got out of the format. When
they stopped making vinyl as new releases
in the 1990s, we still had tens of thousands
of second-hand ones and continued to
source new ones.”
Store founder Chris Hart says that
nowadays little is not released on vinyl as
well as in digital formats. And, he says,
people who say that it “just sounds better”
are not post-modern Luddites. Compact
discs filled a need for portability (remember
the Discman?) and could be played in the
car, but in order to make them usable in
environments where there was ambient
noise the sound was compressed, which
made the quiet parts louder. Exit nuance
and contrast, light and shade.
Digital music has other disadvantages,
dressed up as bonuses, the pair explain.
Bonus tracks expand an album to more
than an hour, which makes for listener
fatigue (“one side of a record, 20 minutes,
is just right,” remarks Hart); meanwhile
cheap compilations and shuffle functions
on devices destroy the continuity artists and
producers have carefully contrived.
More ineffable, but just as important, is
the physical relationship with an artefact:
the disc, 12in in diameter, that you removed
from its sleeve and wiped clean before
carefully lowering a stylus on to it.
That ’s something Millie Ketchley and
Isabelle Livingstone understand. The North
Shore teenagers were checking out a vinyl
copy of the 1967 Jimi Hendrix classic Axis:
Bold as L ove when I accosted them.
“Music just sounds better on vinyl,” Millie
“It is more original, somehow, and I feel
more special when I get it out and put it on
the record player. It ’s a ritual.”
Isabelle agreed, adding that she liked the
sound “because it ’s less perfect — and it ’s a
lot cheaper as well”.
It was enough to make me regret my
foolishness in having traded in all my
vinyl — at Real Groovy, in fact — in the
1990s. It was a fundamental change in my
relationship with music, I now see.
As Hart reminds me: “ Vinyl is about
sitting down in a living room — because
you can’t play your records anywhere else.”
— New Zealand Herald
PICTURE: New Zealand Herald
Real Groovy customers Millie Ketchley, left, and Isabelle Livingstone say music
sounds better on vinyl.
Vinyl fans turn tables on progress
Auckland institution Real Groovy Records is proving a long player in a world of changing music
technology, PETER CALDER of the New Zealand Herald reports.
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