The Impossible Climb Made possible: Climbing is a challenging, unrelenting, and high-risk sport. Being a climber myself, I know the challenges and constant battle one has to push oneself further and further. Climbing itself has a long rich history. At the heart of the sport has long been the historic national park, Yosemite Valley. Yosemite Valley has seen centuries of climbing starting back in the 19th century. The valley is surrounded by large walls upon which have glorious views.
These walls have attracted many climbers to them. These walls hold many historic climbs in their bones and have seen numerous attempts to make the impossible possible. One of these momentous walls, known as El Capitan, has seen a great portion of these historic climbs. A very historic climb recently took place in January of 201 5 on a side of II Capitan known as the Dawn Wall. The Dawn Wall had never been climbed by using the rock as holds to climb up only using ropes to catch a fall, until January 14th 2015.
Andrew Baccarat wrote in an article (201 5), “Nineteen days after they set out to achieve one of climbing’s most difficult challenges, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgensen reached the summit of the 3,000-foot rock known as El Capitan in Yosemite National Park on Wednesday, marking the first free ascent of a notoriously difficult section called the Dawn Wall” (p. 1). In this paper I will rhetorically critique a selected artifact. The artifact will be critiquing through this essay is an article written about this climb and drawing from the climb itself in order to explain the article.
The goal of this essay is to successfully rhetorically critique the article, ‘ ‘The Impossible Line” seen in Rock & Ice magazine. My thesis is through this article, the retro’s goal was to instill hope in the reader and encourage the reader to go climb their own “impossible line”. Description II Capitan is a granite wall that extends about 3,000 Ft. Towering over the valley (Killeen, 1 996, p. 1). What was once seemed to be an impossible face to climb, El Cap now has over 70 established climbing routes (Manager & Sloan, 2005, p. 1). El Capstan’s first assent began in the summer of 1957 by Warren Harding and various creamers.
Harding and a few other members finally completed it in the fall of 1958 (Killeen, 1996, p. 1). El Cap would continue to be climbed by climbers such as, Warren Harding, Dean Caldwell, Steve Sutton, Charlie Porter, and many more. The Dawn Wall is a section of El Cap that gets it’s name from the dawn light that first hits the valley lying directly first on this bold towering face. The Dawn Wall was first climbed in 1 970 by Harding and Caldwell through a method known as aid climbing, which relies on nylon ladders attached to placed hardware to support a climber’s weight.
The Dawn Wall had not been climbed using the rock as holds until Tommy and Kevin finished it in January. The New York Times quoted Alex Handhold, a renowned professional climber: “What makes he Dawn Wall so special is that it’s almost not possible”(2015). Belle said (2015) that they, “… Attempted what many considered impossible on one of the world’s most difficult climbs… ” (p. 1). President Obama also had something to say, posting a tweet on twitter saying that Caldwell and Jorgensen “remind us that anything is possible”.
Even the daunting wall itself almost speaks to viewers telling anyone that knows a little about climbing that it’s Dawn Wall face is impossible. Rock and Ice Magazine recently released their April 201 5 issue, which is a special edition attributed to the Dawn Wall climb. In this issue there is an article that describes the climb in its entirety. It is titled, “The Impossible Line”. The article begins by talking about the beginning of the journey and where Kevin Caldwell got the crazy idea that he would free climb a route no one had ever done before.
This introduction describes the about 2 years before Caldwell and Jorgensen decided to team up and do the climb together. During these two years, the rhetoric explains to the reader that Caldwell several times, almost gave up on his idea to climb the dawn wall. The article continues with its introduction laying out the singings of the climb and journey to the 1 9 days spent that finally finished the wall. Kevin Jorgensen is introduced. The rhetoric explains that Jorgensen was inspired after seeing clips of Caldwell climbing sections of the wall. He joined up with Caldwell and began their quest together.
During this introduction of Jorgensen, the rhetoric explains that Jorgensen was a (2015) “highball boulder and “had never been on El Cap” (p. 54). Though he seemed to be the least likely of choices as a partner for Caldwell, Caldwell was “motivated by Surgeon’s interest in the climb” and “decided to keep trying”(Rock & Ice, 201 5, . 54). Jorgensen explained (2015) that free climbing a big wall like the Dawn Wall “was a bit like jumping into a cold river'(p. 54). The next part of the article talks about how much of a struggle it was to get up the route during those 19 days of climbing to conquer the impossible.
In the article, how they had to climb in the night to get better traction, how the skin on their fingertips would get so worn away from climbing sharp rock, and how they conquered especially hard parts of the route, are mentioned. The next section describes how Jorgensen struggled more on the climb than Caldwell did. There was even point at which Jorgensen thought he could not complete the climb. Fortunately he was able to overcome this difficult section of the climb and catch up to Caldwell. The last part of the article describes the two of them completing the route and all of the national attention that this completion gained.
In this article to put it plainly, it is explained out how the route was accomplished. It also describes the difficulties of it. By describing the impossible route and difficulty of it, which the route has been accomplished, do the rhetoric aim to encourage and instill hope in other climbers and future enervation to push the boundaries of the so called “impossible”? My goal is to rhetorically critique this article, “The Impossible Line”, and climb of their effectiveness or lack thereof of encouragement and installment of hope. Method In order to successfully provide this critique I will use rhetorical critique methods.
The article in Rock and Ice Magazine along with the climb itself can be rhetorically criticized through two rhetorical critique methods known as Cluster Criticism and Narrative Criticism. Cluster Criticism First I will discuss cluster criticism. Kenneth Burke is a rhetorical critic who plopped the method of cluster analysis in order to conduct rhetorical criticism. According to “Rhetorical Criticism” written by Songs Foss (2009), “Burke defines rhetoric as ‘the use of words by human agents to form attitudes or to induce actions in other human agents”‘ (p. 63).
Cluster criticism uses a system of key terms and clusters deriving from the artifact that form an explanation for the artifact. Foss explains (2009), “Cluster analysis involves three basic steps: (1 ) identifying key terms in the artifact; (2) charting terms that cluster around the key terms; and (3) discovering an explanation for the artifact” (p. 66). In order to identify these key terms Foss says that the (2009), “Significance of terms is determined on the basis of frequency or intensity”(p. 66). When terms are used repeatedly throughout the artifact it is apparent that the rhetoric wants to put emphasis on them.
The next step is to chart the clusters used around the key terms. Foss says that (2009), “This process involves a close examination of the artifact to identify each occurrence of each key term and identification of the terms that cluster around each key term” (p. 67). These clusters are usually found around the eye terms and sometimes link key terms together. The last step is to discover an explanation for the artifact. Foss writes (2009), “… A critic attempts to find patterns in the associations or linkages discovered in the charting of the clusters as a way of making visible the worldview constructed by the rhetoric (p. 7). From this charting of clusters the critic may develop definitions or associations for the key terms. “This dictionary suggests the meaning of the key terms for the rhetoric and lays out any relationships that emerged among key terms or clustering terms” (Foss, 2009, p. 68). The explanation the critic develops from the charted clusters around key terms leads toward the objective of the artifact. This enables us to see the rhetoric worldview or goal through the artifact. This worldview can then be analyzed critically in order to show or disprove its effectiveness. Narrative Criticism Now I will discuss narrative criticism.
I will discuss characters, events, and theme which will later use in the application of this method in order to rhetorically critique the artifact. According to Walter Fisher (1 987), “Narratives are fundamental to communication and provide structure for human experience and influence people to share common explanations and understandings” (p. 58). Any artifact can be used with this method that has at lest two events and/or as a timeline of events. Songs Foss (2009) explains the steps as, “Identifying the objective of the narrative; and identifying the features of the narrative to discover how they accomplish the objective… And says sometimes a third step is necessary; “assessing or evaluating the narrative according to the particular 310). There are many different objectives that frequently illustrate narratives. The goal could be to encourage action, to comfort, to teach, to clarify thinking, etc. (Foss, 2009). The next step involves determining the components of the narrative that develop the objective Of the narrative. These descriptions or components that support the narrative are the characters, events, and theme that I will discuss in regards to the artifact.
Characters in the narrative are just like the characters in a movie or book. Characters can be human and nonhuman or inanimate phenomena (Foss, 2009). Characters can contrast each other in many ways, such as a protagonist and antagonist. Events can be broken up onto major and minor events such as pipelines, happenings, etc. (Foss, 2009). Foss explains (2009) that major events “suggest critical points in the narrative” and “force movement in particular 313). Minor events are used in conjunction with major events to help support them. Foss writes (2009), “Their function is to fill out, elaborate, and complete… (p. 313). Foss also explains that although helpful, minor events are not essential to the narrative and could be emitted without affecting the story line, but this “would affect the form of the narrative and the form’s rhetorical effects”(p. 313). A critic must look at how such events are presented, and how they pertain to the narrative’s goal. The theme of the narrative is very important. Foss says (2009), “A theme is a general idea illustrated by the narrative. It is what a narrative means or is about and points to the significance and meaning of the action”(p. 314).
These components all help and aid to the development of what the narrative’s objective. The purpose for the critic is to “See if there is a link between how the element is developed and the objective you identified for the narrative” (Foss, 2009, p. 312). These elements help show the orator’s worldview and develop the objective of the narrative. Through this criticism method a critic is able to break down the narrative to specific components and analyze the meaning of these components in order to develop an evaluation of the artifact and see if the perceived objective is true and aided by the narrative perspective.
Interpretive Analysis After reading this article I have developed my interpretation of its rhetorical goal. Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgensen are the main focus of the artifact. Through the artifact, their story is told. Trials, complications, feats of pure revere and strength. This climb can be looked at through the terminology used and also through the use of narrative. The article starts with the years before completing the climb. It talks about the mental challenge Tommy went through deciding on how and if he would conquer the route.
The article gives a quote from Tommy Caldwell in which his worry is that he might, “waste too much of my life on the impossible” (Caldwell, 2015). From the start, the rhetoric describes the route as impossible. Choosing to use this quote from Caldwell shows his own voice talking about him having to overcome the fear f not being able to complete the route. The rhetoric continues to describe the challenges of the begging of the journey up the wall. Through the rest of the article it describes the challenges faced during the route. The description is very focused on how difficult the Dawn Wall is.
The holds on the Dawn Wall described show the personality of the climb. Brutal, unforgiving, and nearly impossible. Outside magazine had a short post on their website saying (201 5), “Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgensen completed what is arguably the most difficult ascent in the history of rock climbing’ (Outselling. Com p. ). Before Caldwell and Jorgensen completed the climb, it was impossible. The New York Times article “El Capstan’s Dawn Wall: Coverage of the Ascent at Yosemite” explained (201 5), “No one has ever free-climbed the Dawn Wall route on El Capitan” (p. ). It was unimaginable back when it was first aid climbed that it would be possible to free climb it using only the rock as holds to hoist them up the face. Through the description of impossibility of something that has been deemed possible, is the objective of the artifact is to show how difficult the route was in order to call other climbers to action and instill hope in the readers, climbers, and future generations to push the boundaries of the so called “impossible”? Application of Cluster Criticism There are various key terms used throughout Rock and Ice’s article.
Four key terms characterize the article “The Impossible Line”: Impossible, Dawn Wall, Dyne and Holds. The term impossible is not used many times per say in exact words or with exact clusters that have meaning but is in quotes and most noticeably is used in the title of the article. A few words that do cluster around it are line, battling, and worried. These words begin to explain the dead that the impossible seemed impossible, even to the two men climbing the route. These terms teeter on the line of hope and doubt. Caldwell is quoted saying he might waste too much of his life on the impossible, referring to the climb itself (Caldwell 2015).
The article then explains Caldwell went on to push through this thought of impossibility in the hope to conquer the route. Later on in the article Jorgensen is quoted saying the route rides the line of impossible eve closely (Jorgensen 2015). These two quotes are another example of this hope and doubt. It shows that though they were doubtful in he process that there was still a confidence and hope that they would succeed. This suggests a way of conquering their doubts and impossibilities because of hope they had and through this hope, they instill this hope into the audience of other climbers.
The next term, Dawn Wall, is the very feat these two climbers were conquering. The terms clustered around it are biggest project, slippery, overwhelming, blank wall, visionary project, massive, and celebrated. These terms break up into two subsets. The first subset is a description of how impossible and difficult the climb is while the other subset explains the hope needed and used in order to complete the climb. The terms slippery, blank wall, and massive, all describe the impossibility of the climb. This in turn leads the reader to be amazed even more knowing that the route was climbed and completed already.
While the terms biggest project, overwhelming visionary project, and celebrated explain the hope needed. This hope encourages the audience of climbers to go out and conquer their own impossibilities. Dyne is another significant term used throughout the article. The word dyne is a slang climbing term referring to a dynamic move. This is a move in which one throws themselves from one section of the climb to another grabbing onto holds to catch their body. This move is used in order to span large distances where there are no holds available.
The terms used around it are improbable, hard, eight-footer, blank section, amazing, big and ballistic. These terms like the previously discussed also break up into two groups. Improbable, hard, blank section, and big all are daunting terms that describe the impossibility of the dyne, which was used in order to complete the climb. While eight-footer, amazing, and ballistic scribe the immense accomplishment and feat the climbers conquered. These clusters define the key term, dyne, as an exceptional accomplishment and almost impossible to replicate.
Though this seems to push the audience away from thinking they are incapable of completing such a feat, the clusters also show that Caldwell and Jorgensen themselves had doubts about being able to accomplish this move. So much so that they had to replicated it offset and practice it over and over again in order to get it down. Through this in depth explanation of the term, hope is given to the reader that through reassurance and practice, they too may be able to accomplish something so spectacular, although maybe not the same, but their own version of such a move where such practice and perseverance is needed.
Through explaining it’s impossibility using the key term dyne and explaining how great the two climber’s accomplishment was, it encourages the reader to want to achieve similar goals, because such goals are amazing and great. This is a classic persuasive technique where the rhetoric explains something as great and therefore because it is said to be great in a published article, probably one hat the specific reader enjoys in general, the reader desires to accomplish a similar amazing feat in result. The final key term is holds.
This term refers to the rock extrusions that the climber must hold onto in order to scale the wall. The terms clustered around this key term are attempt, micro, sharp, latching, shredded fingertips, razor, blood, nonexistent, hard, and worried. These terms depict the impossibility of the climb once more. The terms sharp, micro, shredded fingertips, razor, and blood show the hardship of the moves that had to be made in order to complete the climb. The words attempt, latching, nonexistent, hard and worried develop the description of these impossible holds in order to portray what has been conquered.
These clusters show how remarkable it was that the fact that Caldwell and Jorgensen completed the climb because of how difficult it was, which once again sheds light on the hope, which would be needed in order to complete the task. This shows a determination that was needed in order to complete the climb. This determination encourages the reader to have their own determination to accomplish great feats as well. Application of Narrative Criticism I will now look at the artifact through a different method, narrative criticism.
In this application will discuss the characters, events and the theme used to develop the narrative. I will also evaluate these aspects Of the narrative to draw a conclusion for how they relate to the objective of the narrative. Characters The three characters will focus on are Tommy Caldwell, Kevin Jorgensen, and The Dawn Wall. Tommy Caldwell was the visionary for the route. Caldwell was quoted saying (2011 “… L would throw myself into the biggest project could fathom. I would free climb the Dawn Wall” (p. 50). He is portrayed wrought the article as an ambitious and daring leader.
In the photos selected for the article, he is shown doing the most difficult moves. Jorgensen is introduced after the introduction as the apprentice to Caldwell. In the article it explains that Jorgensen was inspired by Caldwell and “contacted Caldwell to see if he needed a partner” (The Impossible Line, p. 54). Later on in the article Jorgensen is quoted saying the route rides the line of impossible very closely (Jorgensen 2015). Jorgensen struggled more with the climb unlike Caldwell who had been training for the climb for about 2 more years than Jorgensen.
Jorgensen is portrayed as the enthusiastic youngster who wants to jump in with the big dogs and manages to stick with it. He is quoted saying (2015) “Tommy is much more certain than I am. That’s why we are such a good team” (p. 59). The Dawn Wall as a character is sort of the antagonist to Caldwell and Jorgensen. The Dawn Wall has a very obvious personality throughout the article. A photo in the article is described as a “nearly holders section” referring to the wall (The Impossible Line p. 53). The holds on which they used to climb the Dawn Wall are called “micro” holds.
A move used to pan an area on the wall is a dyne, which is a jump from one hold releasing all hands and feet to the next holds. Caldwell and Jorgensen continuously battle the Dawn Wall. They have to fight this character in a way in order to complete the climb. The Dawn Wall’s personality is also shown by the description of its towering size. It looks down at the climbers when they begin their journey as a towering monster off wall. To the wall, Caldwell and Jorgensen are miniscule. They are met with continuous resistance from the Dawn Wall.
The Dawn Wall’s personality is shown through it’s difficulty, brutality, and unforgiving holds throughout the climb. Events The article is broken up into sections or chapters. These chapters can be seen as events taking place in the narrative. The major events that contribute to the objective of the narrative are “Beginnings”, “Enter Jorgensen”, “Jorgensen Catches Up”, and ‘The End Nears”. Included in the article are various minor events. In the first event, “Beginnings”, there is a description of how Caldwell planned out the climb.
It talks about the dyne that was necessary to complete it and Caldwell approach to training for the climb. Words such as improbable, overcoming, and holders are used to describe the foundation and start to figure out the route. “Enter Jorgensen” is the event in which the narrative introduces Kevin Jorgensen. It talks about how he was inspired by what Caldwell was doing. In this event Jorgensen says (201 5), “l didn’t think at the time that could actually free climb it myself” (p. 54). This event is the turning point towards the completion of the climb.
This is when Jorgensen joined up with Caldwell and gave them the start of a team that eventually led to conquering the route. The next major event, “Jorgensen Catches up”, explains how Jorgensen had been struggling on a certain part of the climb and then finally caught up after almost throwing in the towel. This is the second turning point and probably the most significant event. During the 3 days that Jorgensen was struggling on the 1 5th pitch of the climb, people thought it would not be finished. “… Much of the world wondered whether Caldwell had abandoned Jorgensen and would top out by himself”(The Impossible Line, p. 7). When Jorgensen caught up with Caldwell they knew they would finish and now all that was left was to push through to the end. The day after he finally completed pitch 15, Jorgensen freed pitch 16, with its eight-foot dyne”(The Impossible Line, p. 67). The last main event, “The End Nears” is the penultimate moment in the narrative. They are pushing through the last part of the climb. This event inspires the most hope in the reader knowing that they are so close to finishing the route. This event is integral to the call to action of the reader and other climbers.
It says in the article (2015), “Although by pitch 29 the Dawn Wall seemed in the bag, it wasn’t quite. ‘Near the top, Kevin says, I’m not goanna make it. I’m not going to be able to do this thing, says Caldwell'”(The Impossible Line, p. 69). Caldwell afterwards explains that even with this doubt in Surgeon’s mind, he would always find a way to push himself and continue on. Throughout these major events minor events are used to support the main plot line Of the major events. These minor events talk about the moments that lead up to each main event.
These minor events help support the major events in explaining the major events’ importance. These minor events are titled, “Into the Night’, “The Loop Pitch”, “Skin in the Game”, and ‘Caldwell Moves On”. Into the Night” explains how Caldwell and Jorgensen had to climb at night in order to counter act the hot conditions they faced during the day. Caldwell said, “We decided that as long as it stayed hot, we would climb at night” (p. 57). This minor event contributes to the major event, “Beginnings” in describing how they accomplished the route along with the decisions they made in order to tackle it.
It also contributes to the explanation of how difficult the route and climb was for them. “The Loop Pitch” describes a part of the climb in which Caldwell had to loop around and actually backtracks in order to go around the dyne he was trying to avoid. This event also tells how Jorgensen unlike Caldwell decided to not do the loop pitch and just execute the dyne instead. This aids the major event of enter Jorgensen showing the impact and importance of Jorgensen joining Caldwell because of how determined and how strong of a climber he is.
The next minor event, “Skin in the Game” discusses how the sharp rock tore up their fingers. A lot of their time was spent mending them with tape and superglue. This once again explains the difficulty and determination both needed in Order to complete the route and purports almost all of the major events through the constant struggle the climbers had throughout each event and their perseverance needed to push through them. The last minor event, “Caldwell Moves On”, talks about how Caldwell had passed Jorgensen. Caldwell says (2015) in this event that the sections above the loop pitch ‘Severe a battle.
We hadn’t really worked these pitches very much. It was a fight to the death”(p. 62). This minor event supports the major event, “Jorgensen Catches Up” showing how far behind Jorgensen had gotten and how integral it was that he eventually caught up to Caldwell. It also shows how much of a battle both went through during “The End Nears” to push through the last part of the climb and finish. These minor events emphasize the difficulty of the route, while supporting the major events, and add to the call to action to the reader.
Theme The main theme of the narrative is “nothing is impossible if you push yourself’. Throughout the entire article, words like impossible, improbable, difficult, hard, and etc. Are used to describe the feat of climbing this route. But along with that is a constant hope that Caldwell and Jorgensen will finish the route. They are constantly battling with themselves to push through the tough and almost impossible sections of the route in order to finish. They are constantly met with difficulty and some of the most unattainable goals. They are constantly pushing themselves to reach that impossible.
Through this perseverance and completion of a climb that was deemed impossible this encourages the reader to push themselves because if they do so nothing is impossible. The theme instills a hope in the reader, and by doing so aids to the call to action. The theme is fairly obvious seeing how the article is titled The Impossible Line” in which it describes the difficulties of the climb that was conquered. This theme is shown through the doubt and belief of impossibility that Caldwell and Jorgensen had yet they pushed themselves and completed the climb.
Evaluation Through these terms and narrative it is evident that the route was seemed to be impossible and understandable so. Even while Caldwell and Jorgensen were climbing the route it still seemed at times, impossible to finish. Although, because it has been accomplished it shows the impossible was made possible through persevering through the difficult climb. The harassers, events, and theme of the artifact, while being looked at as a narrative, all support the idea of a difficult struggle that the main characters, Caldwell and Jorgensen go through battling the opposing character who is the wall itself.
The events are laid out as a story line describing their journey up the wall with an emphasis on important moments that left the reader on their seat regarding weather or not they would finish this route. The theme is constant throughout the narrative as a battle or overcoming of difficulties and challenges faced throughout the climb. This theme in turn helps with the encouragement of the reader to take action and complete their own battles or impossibilities. When one looks at the key terms and clusters around it, the same objective, although accomplished differently, can be drawn from the artifact.
The key terms all enforce the idea that the climb is nearly impossible, difficult, and brutal. The clusters around the key terms such as the word visionary, or biggest project, while being used in conjunction to words like massive and blank show a contrast to each other stating that though the climb was difficult and almost undeniable it was amazing and there as hope throughout it that it could be accomplished. Throughout the key terms clustered terms that instill perseverance are used to describe them.
This perseverance is in turn portrayed in a way of hope and encouragement for the audience to act upon and develop their own goals of impossibility and conquer them. By describing these difficult and impossibilities the rhetoric use descriptive words, along with narrative aspects that portray these feats as a positive and honoring accomplishment. This positive affirmation of what the climbers accomplished acts as a hope and encouragement upon which the audience is given to go and push boundaries on their own, assuming they too want to be like Caldwell and Jorgensen, the amazing duo that accomplished what no man had accomplished.
One way that the rhetorical goal of the artifact could have been better conveyed is by ending the article with a call to action or an exact encouragement to the reader to go and conquer their impossible lines. A great way to end it would have been, for example, “Now go climb your Dawn Wall”. Discussion How does this article and climb have any rhetorical effects?