1.1 Written Text Essay – Touching the Void

Touching the Void

Describe at least one important technique used in the written text. Explain how this technique is used to help you understand key ideas.

Survival, determination and the consequences of human nature are all important ideas used by Joe Simpson throughout his novel, “Touching the Void.” This nonfiction novel, recalls the journey and misfortune of two climbers attempting to scale the incredibly dangerous, West face of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes. Throughout the novel, Joe Simpson uses multiple language techniques to help the reader to understand important ideas that are key to the text, one of these techniques being foreshadowing.

1st paragraph
Foreshadowing is a prominent language technique used throughout the initial stages of, “Touching the Void,” to help the reader predict the events where Joe breaks his leg and the eventual separation of the two climbers, as well as understand the idea of Joe becoming less conscious of the dangers of the mountain and less concerned about the safety of himself and Simon.

2nd paragraph
During the climax of the text, Joe and Simon come to an ice face that they must either climb down or move around to make progress. Because Joe is feeling impatient and is eager to get off the mountain, as well as confident in the conditions, he makes the decision to descend the ice face rather than take the time and effort to move around it. Joe examines the face and finds a place that he may be able to climb down safely, however, due to his hasty approach and overconfidence, he makes a mistake in the placement of his ice hammer and falls off the face, landing and breaking his leg. These events are clearly foreshadowed by Joe’s dialogue and thoughts during the initial stages of the text.

3rd paragraph
The first example of foreshadowing of these events is shown through Joe’s thoughts when he reaches the summit of Siula Grande. Upon Simon and Joe reaching the summit of Siula Grande, after the physically and mentally demanding ascent of the West face, Joe begins to feel, “the usual anticlimax,” and begins to question his motive for climbing the mountain: “What now?” “If you succeed with one dream, you come back to square one and it’s not long before you’re conjuring up another.” These quotes show that, after achieving his main goal, Joe feels that there’s nothing more to the climb, completely disregarding the fact that the descent is still a major part of his journey and poses just as many risks as the ascent. His carefree attitude poses a major threat to his and Simons safety as, if in his overconfidence he makes a mistake in his climbing path or the placement of his axes, he could risk falling off a cliff or ridge, killing or badly injuring himself and Simon in the process. This shows the reader that it is part of human nature to be dissatisfied and always want something more than what we already have as well as question what we perceive are our weaknesses. We disregard the things we have and should be appreciative of for ideas and dreams of something we believe could be better, sometimes, as in Joe’s case, at great cost.

4th paragraph
After Joe and Simon begin their climb down the East face of the mountain, the two men encounter multiple issues that make their descent more difficult than either of them originally anticipated. Clouds and steady snowfall limit the visibility the two men have and thick snow slows their pace to a crawl. After encountering some difficult and dangerous terrain on the East ridge, Joe makes note of how he never thought about the descent as being in any way dangerous compared to the initial climb: “I felt the first twangs of anxiety. This ridge had turned out to be way more serious than we had ever imagined while our attention had been focused on the route up the West face.” These quotes show that Joe is now realising the error in his judgement when it came to regarding the descent as easy and risk free. From this section of the text, the reader is shown that Joe regards the descent as just another obstacle between him and his next goal, showing how human nature is to constantly be focused on the next best thing rather than living in the moment and taking into account the journey as a whole, including the risks involved.

5th paragraph
Over the next two days the conditions become increasingly worse and instead of feeling anxious, Joe feels frustrated at the lack of progress being made because of these conditions. He states, “I began to feel impatient,” “The mountain had lost its excitement, its novelty, and I wanted to get off it as soon as possible.” This shows us that now Joe’s main concern is not the safety of himself and Simon, getting of the mountain is. The idea that he is more focused on getting off the mountain combined with his overconfidence in his and Simon’s safety, foreshadow him falling off the ice face because of bad decisions he’s made that have been influenced by his mindset.

7th paragraph
These events and the dialogue we see during the initial stages of, “Touching the Void,” written by Joe Simpson, accurately foreshadow Joe falling off the ice face and breaking his leg. They help the reader understand the key idea of the consequences of human nature, in that Joe is becoming less conscious of the dangers presented to him as he believes that there is less risk in the descent of Siula Grande, and that he is becoming more concerned about getting off the mountain than the safety of himself and Simon.

“I’ve got something to say,” – Grades aren’t everything

Grades aren’t everything

We’ve all been stressed over our grades at one point or another. Staying up till 2 in the morning finishing that essay, doing that math paper in whanau that you ‘forgot’ to do last night, or studying for an exam on the bus. I can almost guarantee that we have all been in situations like this at one point or another. But should you really be all that worried about whether you get an excellence or not? You’re probably looking at me now, questioning whether I’m a complete tool or not, thinking, “of course grades matter,” or, “yeah, what would I be without those excellence credits?” Well, to put it simply, your grades don’t mean everything, they don’t determine who you are and they don’t decide your future, and I’m here to tell you why.

1st paragraph
Grades are scores that we as students receive when completing an exam or assessment, that range from ‘not achieved’ to ‘high excellence,’ depending to what standard we have completed the task. These scores give a brief idea of how well we have done on on the assessment and, as we have been taught to believe, are accurate reflections of our overall skill, intelligence and capability in that subject. As I see it, we have been conditioned to believe that these grades are extremely important and have most definitely all been told at one point or another that they will basically set us up for the rest of our lives. Based on what we’ve been  taught, bad grades close doors to awesome jobs and opportunities, and open the gleaming glass doors of the nearest Maccas where you’ll inevitably spend the rest of your days. This mindset has changed the way we see schooling and education, and as I see it, is completely ridiculous.

2nd paragraph
This way of thinking isn’t, and never should have been, a valid way to look at our educations.
The point of this speech is to let you know why grades don’t define us people, and why we can still succeed without high marks, and understanding what education actually is, I think, is a very important part of that. The reason we come to school is to learn; that’s the gist of it. School is supposed to help us learn and understand the world around us, understand the people around us and understand who we are as individuals, as well as giving us basic knowledge in certain areas to set us up when we step out into our adult lives. But the change from, “I come to school to learn,” to “I come to school to get good grades,” has thrown the whole idea of what education actually is, into the gutter and this, as I see it, has caused some major issues.

3rd paragraph
As I said before, we see our success in school as a reflection of how intelligent and capable we are as individuals. High grades seem to reflect high intelligence and capability and low grades the complete opposite. This mindset has caused several major problems when it comes to the mental well-being and self esteem of students in today’s society. Depression and anxiety rates among students have increased dramatically during the past few decades and, sadly, the pressure to do well in school and low grades is a major contributing factor to that. A 2002 study at the University of Michigan found that 80 percent of students surveyed based their self-worth on academic performance. I know I have, at one point or another, felt useless and incapable after getting low scores on tests and exams. Looking back, this seems almost unfair, but I now understand that basing self esteem on test scores isn’t right, because as I now know, our grades can’t accurately reflect our intelligence, and here are some reasons why.

4th paragraph
I know from experience that to be good at something, you have to be somewhat passionate about it.  I for example, love to write and play music. Last year my band entered in the annual Smokefree Rockquest and made it through to the regional finals and to be honest we were totally stoked. I honestly believe that the only reason we made it through was because we were passionate about what we were doing. Our motivation for getting together every weekend and entering into this competition was our love for the music we created and the satisfaction of being able to share that with the world. I can safely say that my intelligence and abilities were reflected more genuinely when I was doing something I loved. Sadly, I can’t say that I’m as passionate about school. Sure I want to be a high achiever but I don’t think when I’m writing a two-thousand word essay that, “I’m loving this and having an awesome time and can’t wait to share this with the world.” I think I can safely say the same for a majority of students at our school. Because we’re not as passionate about school then we are other things like sport or video games or music, to list a few, then our true ability isn’t reflected in our grades. Because of the way we’ve been taught to perceive grades, we recognize failure in school as a lack of intelligence despite the fact that we’re not giving our all to our work because we’re not really that engaged in what we’re doing. To put it simply, just because you’re not interested in what you do, doesn’t mean you’re unintelligent.

5th paragraph
Another reason I say that grades can’t accurately reflect intelligence is because in a lot of cases, the tests we take and things we’re assessed on don’t encourage creativity and instead focus solely on the ability to take an issue and regurgitate information we’ve been taught time and time again. The problem with this, is some people, instead of being able to memorize and repeat information, are more capable of coming up with new ideas and thinking outside the box. Again, when it comes to test taking, we are encouraged to stick by a set of rules and guidelines that limit us to repeating information we have previously been taught, rather than coming up with new and unique answers. This means that students who have trouble with memorization and repetition, but are gifted in the way of creative thinking are not allowed to show their true potential and usually end up with lower grades. I see this as an issue because, in my eyes, creativity is still a high form of intelligence and should be regarded in such a way. In a TED talk I watched, a man named Sir Ken Robinson discusses why he believes schools are, in a way, ‘killing creativity.’ Similar to the point I previously made, he talks about how schools don’t provide sufficient opportunities for students to actively engage in creative thinking, a skill which he deems just as important as being able to read and write. He discusses how subjects like music, dance and drama, all fitting under the arts category, are regarded by the government as less necessary than core subjects like mathematics and languages, due to the education system revolving around the requirements for more able workers in an industrial age. The ‘subject hierarchy’ as he refers to it, “was created to meet the needs of industrialism,” meaning that the core subjects are regarded as more valuable and therefore result in higher praise compared to the arts. The sad thing about this, is creativity is automatically disregarded and discouraged because isn’t required for a functional society; or better  said, wasn’t required. In today’s society, creativity and creative thinking is an integral part of every day life, whether it revolves around design, music or programming, they all play major roles. Creative thinking is being brought back into the game and the education system isn’t making changes to keep up. We still talk about music and art still as if they don’t mean as much as math and science. Therefore, people who are incredibly creative and have awesome minds are still being regarded as unintelligent compared to those who are high achievers in the core subjects. If you’re one of these people, you shouldn’t be so hung up on a not achieved in that algebra test if you’re getting excellence grades in music composition as they should be held as equally important. The point I’m trying to make is that these tests and exams don’t truly allow us to show our true potential because creativity isn’t encouraged despite being a vital part of our learning and our futures.

6th paragraph
So your grades don’t define you. Not your intelligence or capabilities that is. But do they decide our futures? In some cases they do, depending on what you want to do with your life after school, but, then again, there are a lot of options that don’t require amazing academic achievement. Creativity holds a big place in this department as you don’t need excellences to prove you’re an incredible guitar player or that you’re an amazing artist or that you’re an awesome actor. People such as Simon Cowell, Benedict Cumberbatch and Cameron Diaz never did well in school but I think it’s safe to say they came out just fine. A fantastic example of this is a world renowned chef named, Ivan Orkin.

7th paragraph
Ivan is a prime example of success without great achievement in school and expression of creative ability. Starting with nothing, being regarded as a failure in a family of successful children, Ivan made his way to the top of the cooking game by taking the thing he loved most, that being food, and making not only a living, but a life out of it.
Ivan was born in Long Island, New York and was the ‘screw up’ son of a successful lawyer and an esteemed artist. Ivan struggled in school and was, according to his mother, a lot to deal with, with the only thing he really enjoyed being his food. When Ivan was fifteen he got a job as a dishwasher at a local Japanese place. Upon arriving on his first day, the head chef presented Ivan with a simple Japanese dish consisting of steamed rice, egg and seaweed. This dish sparked a love in Ivan for Japanese cuisine. When he finished school, Ivan decided to study Japanese and eventually moved to Japan to become an English teacher. This experience cemented Ivan’s love for everything Japanese, especially the food. He enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America upon his return to the USA, and began his culinary training. He hated it. After graduation and several short lived jobs at world renowned restaurants, Ivan decided to move back to Japan. It was there that he decided to open his own ramen shop simply ‘because he could,’ and eventually became a world renowned cook.
Ivan’s story stood out to me because he came from a place where he wasn’t doing well in school and failing all of his classes, to becoming know worldwide for doing something he loved. He defied all odds, creating something from nothing, or so it would seem. I think the reason Ivan succeeded in becoming successful is because he was passionate about what he was creating. To me, Ivan is a clear example of discarded and discouraged creativity. During his childhood, he was put through multiple different schools, only to result in the same outcome each time. There seemed to be no other option for him, according to his parents, so he was treated like an outcast. Because Ivan was eventually allowed to show the full extent of his creative abilities, he was able to succeed, even without fantastic grades.

So there you have it. You shouldn’t be so stressed over your grades because they don’t mean everything. They don’t define you as a person, they don’t always have a say in your future and there is the possibility of success without them. People like Ivan are clear examples of this and, you never know, but if you’re not doing so well in school but you find something you’re passionate about, you may end up in the same situation. And on that note, I end my speech and ironically, hope for a good grade.




“Touching the void,” Chapter 4 – “On the edge.”

Touching the void,” by Joe Simpson

Chapter 4 – “On the edge.”


  1. The chapter title, “On the edge,” works as a pun as the chapter heavily revolves around Joe and Simon putting themselves in danger in order to progress in their ascent up the side of the mountain. During the initial stages of the chapter, Joe visualises ideas of potential disasters when the two men are attempting to scale, Siula Grande.
    “There was no question about traversing lower down on the East face, for this was a continuous series of large flutings running down over the clouds which had closed over the void again several hundred feet below us.”
    These first lines of the chapter, immediately give the image of crossing a barrier into new territory and potentially, into the unknown. The words “closed over the void,” gives me the image of a door closing behind Simon and Joe, blocking them off from the lower part of Siula Grande and the rest of the world. “On the edge,” could refer to the crossing this sort of line and moving into this new, foreign area. The men are at the beginning or, ‘on the edge,’ of a new part of their endearing adventure. Further into the chapter, the men are presented with a new set of challenges to face and overcome, proving difficult for the two of them, further being emphasised by Joe’s use of rather profound language. One of the major obstacles Joe and Simon have overcome is traversing along a particularly tricky ridgeline with the ever present risk of falling leading to a rather unpleasant death. This is the first example of the pun, “On the edge,” coming into play. ‘On the edge,’ so far as I can see it, could be interpreted two different ways. Firstly, the men are literally on the edge of a massive ridgeline on the East face of Siula Grande. Secondly, the mental stress of the climb will make the men very aware and anxious of what’s going on around them. This makes them seem very ‘on edge.’ This state of being on edge is shown more throughout the rest of the chapter meaning the title really does it’s job in summarising this part of the story.
  2. Imagery is an important language technique used throughout, “Touching the void,” as it puts the reader in the narrator’s (Joe’s) shoes, and gives an idea of Joes interpretation of the situations himself and Simon end up in. Imagery is also used to create tension. Because we as the reader are only getting an idea of what’s happening from Joe’s perspective, we can never be sure of how Simon feels or what’s he’s seeing when he and Joe are seperated. In the beginning of the chapter Joe is following Simon across a ridgeline at a distance of about 150 feet. Joe is pondering ways in which he and Simon could injure or even kill themselves on the ridge, and how he might be able to save them both from falling to their untimely deaths. 

Specialised vocabulary in, “Touching the Void.”

Specialized vocabulary in, “Touching the Void,” by Joe Simpson

Chapter 3: Storm at the summit.

Specialized vocabulary, or technical jargon, is used frequently throughout “Touching the Void,” to give a better image of the situations the men are in.
This technical jargon isn’t always explained to the reader in full detail leaving out large chunks of the images Joe is trying to create. This is because Joe values character over environment when it comes to telling his story. The narration of the story involves a lot of talk about the environment the men are in but focuses more on what they’re thinking and feeling. I think the reason for this is Joe wanting the reader to be able to understand the character and really feel a connection with them so when something goes wrong or the men are victorious when overcoming challenges, you get a better idea of how they feel.

Slang and technical jargon

  1. Frostbitten
    Frostbitten, as stated in the word, relates back to the condition of frostbite, the result of being exposed to extremely cold temperatures for long periods of time. Frostbite freezes skin and tissue, usually around the hands and feet, until they turn black and are completely solid.
    This term is important in this section of the text when the two men are out climbing the mountain after dark. With the sun gone and temperatures dropping, Joe and Simon had to find a location in which they could dig out their snow cave to sleep in overnight. Because it gets so cold up in the mountains at night, frostbite is a very real and very dangerous threat the men may have had to overcome if they were unable to find a cave site.
  2. Visibility
    Visibility is how far a person is able to see with a certain amount of light or weather conditions affecting their eyesight.
    Visibility is an important concept in this section of the story because, as I mentioned previously, the men were out at night with very low visibility. The treacherous terrain of the mountain, Siula Grande. This could have been potentially devestating for Joe and Simon as situational awareness is key when climbing and having only visibility would be a major burden.
  3. Axes
    Axes are a tool used by climbers to get leverage when climbing icy faces.
    Ice-axes are an essential addition to Joe and Simon’s inventory of climbing equipment. The axes allow them to gain leverage on the icy slopes they must traverse and, withuot them, would not be able to get anywhere near the peak. Ice-axes are important in this part of the story because, they help make the hard climbs a lot less difficult.
  4. Belayed
    The word belayed refers to the technique of belaying in which one person applies and releases tension on a rope whilst the climber also atached to the rope climbs the wall.
    Belaying is an important idea in this part of the text, as a trend shown in this chapter and throughout the rest of the book is the trust involved in the relationship between Simon and Joe. Belaying involves a huge amount of trust in person holding the rope as if they were to let go or release tension on the rope, a fall from great height would most likely be fatal. When Joe and Simon belay one another they are literally trusting one another with their lives.
  5. Snow hole
    A snow hole is, as the name states, a hole in the snow, used as a temporary shelter particulary by climbers.
    This term is important in this part of the text because a snow hole is the only shelter Joe and Simon have from the cold and the harsh environment of Siula Grande. One of the major parts of the chapter involves Joe and Simon climbing after dark in attempt to find a sufficient spot to dig their snow hole, eventually coming across a pre-made one.

“Touching the void,” Chapter 8 – “Silent Witness”

Touching the void,” by Joe Simpson

Chapter 8 – “Silent Witness”

“If I hadn’t cut the rope I would have certainly died. Looking at the cliff, I knew there would be no surviving such a fall. Yet, having saved myself, I was now going to return home and tell people a story that a few would ever believe. No one cuts the rope! It could never be that bad! Why didn’t you do this, or try that? I could hear the questions, and see the doubts in the eyes even of those who accepted my story. It was bizarre, and it was cruel. I had been on to a loser from the moment he broke his leg, and nothing could have changed it.

The  tone throughout this passage from Simon heavily revolves around the concern he feels for the way people will perceive him after he made the decision to cut the rope and, as Simon believes, leave Joe for dead. We see Simon repeatedly try to console himself, making himself believe that the decision he made was right and just in defense against the abuse he believes will thrash him upon his return to civilization. Simon’s concern is not only shown through his words, but also in the manner in which he has constructed his sentences. He uses short, sharp bursts of speech with limited detail to show his, almost panic, at what he assumes his decision will result in.
In contrast to the rapid, panicky tone of the passage, the mood is more that of sympathy than anything else. While Simon is suffering from an anxious breakdown, so it seems, we as the reader can feel glad that we don’t have to experience the same thing. Despite not being in the same situation as Simon, I understand what this may feel like having had similar feelings of anxiety  before. The sentence structure also plays a part in the creation of this mood. Whilst reading a book, I personally tend to be rather relaxed and calm. The short, fast paced passage allows us to, as I see it, look down on Simon as he has been put into a situation in which he is totally out of control and in a state of panic. This makes us feel sympathetic for a person who isn’t in the same state of calm we as the reader may be in.

“This place was ageless and lifeless. A mass of snow, and ice, and rock slowly moving upwards; freezing, thawing, cracking asunder, always chasing with the passing of centuries. What a silly thing to pit oneself against!”

The tone in this surrounds the feelings of stupidity and insignificance that Simon expresses as he looks back on what he and Joe had attempted to do; that is overcoming a feat of nature, never intended to be conquered by man. Simon realizing that he and Joe had attempted to climb a wild and untamed environment with the hopes of making it back without a scratch. This only now dawns on Simon as a stupid idea. The mountain of Siula Grande is, as he states, an ever changing mass of snow and ice, ageless and lifeless.” This gives the reader an idea of how Simon feels insignificant compared with the mountain.



“Touching the void,” Chapter 7 – “Shadows in the ice”

Touching the void,” by Joe Simpson

Chapter 7 – “Shadows in the ice”

  1. Contrast is a language technique used repetitively throughout “Shadows in the ice,” to give us as the reader an understanding of the conflicting emotions that Joe is feeling. In two separate places Joe talks about how in one situation, he feels almost certain that he and Simon are going to die, and then in another he expresses his joy at being alive after having being so close to death.
    “I accepted that I was to die. There was no alternative.” “How long will you be, Simon? I thought. How long before you join me?”
    “Alive!…I laughed through the burning, and kept laughing hard, feeling tears rolling down my face.”
    The contrast in these lines is used to show how Joe has hope even in the most dire of circumstances.  Despite being stuck in a crevasse with a broken leg and virtually no way of getting out alive, Joe still shows that he has hope as he is happy to be alive.
  2. The rope is another symbol of hope for Joe as, if attached to Simon, it means that he may have a better chance of getting out of the crevasse, if a chance at all. When he pulls the severed end of the rope down into the crevasse, his sense of accountability towards Simon completely disappears. Any sense of hope that Joe once had is now gone.
    “I pulled steadily, and as I did so I became excited. This was a chance to escape.”
    “I saw the ropes flick down and my hopes sank.” “Crazy to have believed in it but everything was getting that way.”
    These lines show Joe’s contrasting emotions, giving us an idea of how his sense of of hope and accountability towards Joe changes as he sees the cut rope.

“Touching the void,” Chapter 5 – “Disaster”

Touching the void,” by Joe Simpson

Chapter 5 – “Disaster”

  1. When Joe breaks his leg during the climax of, “Touching the Void,” imagery is used to draw the reader in and allow them to see from Joe’s perspective. In the moments leading up to Joe’s fall, he describes attempting to descend a very precarious part of Siula Grande. He talks about lowering himself over the side of a cliff, his only leverage being the ice axe and ice hammer he has lodged into the side of the cliff face. He gives the image of the ice axe having a good grip on the lip of the ice wall and shows that he is making a calculated decision about where he’s inserting the ice hammer into the wall. This makes us as the reader believe that Joe has full control over the situation, providing us with a false sense of security. When Joe does fall, it happens suddenly at the hand of his ice axe. The axe becomes dislodged from the lip leaving him with no means of attaching himself to the wall.
    Joe doesn’t talk about the initial fall but instead focuses on the aftermath and what happens next. He talks about the unbearable pain he feels in his knee, as well as the multitude of confusing twists and turns he endures, only then to be “catapulted,” over the side of the East face of Siula Grande. This provides the reader with the image of Joe being very disoriented and confused by the sudden movements and the excruciating pain he feels.
    When compared with one another, the images Joe helps us visualize before and after the fall are contrasted in almost every way. Initially, Joe is sure of what he’s doing and is confident in himself and his gear, only to have that, quite literally, ripped away from him by the fall. He is then plunged into a state of confusion and terror. These drastically contrasting images and the sudden change that divides them, draw the reader in.
  2. When Joe shatters his knee, he believes that in time, he will be left by Simon on the mountain to die as there seems to be no possible way for him to get back down to base camp with his leg in unusable condition. This is unless Simon chooses to help Joe in a very long and very slow descent of the West face of Siula Grande. Simon’s perspective is included in this section of the text because we get an understanding of Joe’s situation from two very different standpoints. Simon is advantaged in this situation because he is fully capable and is able to make the decision as to whether he will help Joe make it back to base camp, or whether he will leave him for dead. Simon’s narration is included in the text so we can get and understanding of why he makes the choice to stay and help Joe. During this section of the text we know that Simon and Joe know that the most likely outcome for Joe is death, being left alone on the side of the mountain due to his inability to descend without help. This is shown when Simon says…
    “You’re dead… No two ways about it! I think he knew it too. I could see it in his face. It was all totally rational.”
    Later in the Simon’s narration, another line shows his rational and logical thinking when he says…
    “I couldn’t help him and it occurred to me that in all likelihood he would fall to his death. I wasn’t disturbed by the thought. In a way I hoped he would fall.”
    These lines show us that, to Simon, his own survival is more appealing than attempting the impossible task of saving Joe and the chances of him dying increasing as well. Despite this sensible way of analyzing his situation, Simon chooses to help Joe anyway, more out of sympathy than anything else.
    Simon’s narration clearly shows a change in the men’s relationship. Once being friends, Joe sees Simon as his potential savior and Simon views Joe as a burden. This change in perspectives leaves the two seeing each other more as just climbing partners than friends. In life or death situations like the one Simon and Joe are experiencing, survival usually takes priority over everything else.
    From this change, I as the reader, gather that this may be foreshadowing future events in which Simon abandons Joe to save his own life, casting aside the possibility of Joe making it off Siula Grande alive.

“Touching the void,” by Joe Simpson. Chapter 2 – Tempting Fate

Touching the void,” by Joe Simpson

Chapter 2 – Tempting Fate

  1. Joe and Simon’s relationship heavily revolves around interdependence especially when they’re climbing together. From Joe’s perspective we can understand that he regards Simon as the leader and decision maker when the two of them are together. This relates back to Joe’s seemingly insecure nature and the fact that he regards Simon as, in a sense, superior to him. Multiple times in the chapter we can see that Simon has had more experience in the mountains and is more capable when in the cold and dangerous environments compared to Joe. An example showing this is at the beginning of the chapter when Simon offers to climb ahead of Joe, as Joe is suffering from heat cramps, something Simon is seemingly accustomed to.
    “”I’ll go first, shall I?” Simon said, knowing he had me at a disadvantage.”
    This line involving a rhetorical question from Simon, gives insight into how Simon’s experience exceeds Joe’s and how Joe relies on him because of this.
    Simon’s dependence on Joe revolves more around having a climbing partner rather than having someone to lead the way. Throughout the chapter, Joe refers to passing Simon gear, food etc. Despite Simon having more experience, he still relies on Joe for his skills as a climber to be able to get to the top of the mountains they traverse.
    Overall, the two men rely on one another, maybe one more than the other, for help and for company.
  2. The environment Joe and Simon are facing during Tempting Fate,” in some places, challenge the abilities and present the men with dangerous situations which they have to overcome. Because the areas of the mountain they climb involve loose rock and somewhat unstable icefaces, the men rely heavily on each other to communicate and make one another aware of potential dangers up ahead. Individually, the mountain demands that the men be very conscious of their surroundings to stay safe whilst climbing the treacherous terrain and making it to the summit.
  3.  Toward the end of the chapter, Joe talks about his previous experiences in difficult mountaineering conditions. Joe discusses being in a near death situation, almost having fallen after the section of protruding rock he and his partner were sleeping on fell away, leaving them hanging from a rope by their armpits for twelve hours until their rescue. This section of the text is important, because it, not only reveals a potential reason for Joe’s unsure and insecure nature, but also because it may be foreshadowing future events. 

The role of the author and initial characterisation

Touching the void,” by Joe Simpson

The role of the author and characterisation


Chapter 1

  1. When Joe says, “The dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible,” to me it means that the people who have and choose to follow through with their wild ‘daydreams’ are a danger, not only because they may be risking their own life in the process of carrying out their ideas, but they exceed the social normalities and rise above, what some would call, the machine that is society. They choose to live outside the box, off the grid in a sense, chasing their crazy fantasies until they are achieved.
  2. Joe talks about the mountains regarding them as higher and far greater  than him, but has a drive to conquer them nonetheless. This gives the initial impression that he is, as he describes in the first part of the book, a daydreamer; a dangerous man, risking his own life to overcome things greater than him. Despite all this Joe does take comfort in homely thing, for example, the tent he refers to in the second paragraph of the book.  This shows that Joe tends to push himself to overcome great challenges and push himself out of his comfort zone, almost as if he has something to prove to himself.
  3. Joe, at the beginning of the book, describes Simon as everything he wished he could be. He envies Simon for his “carefree, take-it-as-it-comes attitude,” and his ability to make the best of life even in the most dire of situations. Joe also talks about how Simon was tall, strong, an easy friend, etc. Joe holding Simon is such high regard gives the idea that Joe is very self conscious and wishes he could be more than he believes he is. I think that Simon and Joe’s relationship revolves around Joe looking up to Simon, almost like a younger sibling looking up to their older brother.
  4. Joe’s outlook on Richard is almost a direct contrast when compared with his opinion of Simon. During the initial stages of the book, Joe talks about Richard, trying to portraying him as someone lesser than himself; a ‘night-dreamer’ rather than a daydreamer. He mentions finding Richard, “resting in a sleazy hotel,” and talks about Richard’s adventures in a manner that makes him seem almost heartless, making a note about how he watched his travelling companion” get shot dead by some trigger happy soldiers. I think Joe’s relationship with Richard totally differs from his with Simon. Instead of looking up at him, he instead looks down upon him. I believe this is to make Joe feel comfortable with who he is, or at least better, because he makes himself believe that because he’s better than Richard, he has good qualities people should look for in him.
  5. Because Joe and Simon are so far away from the nearest village, getting help if something were to go wrong up on the mountain would take a long time for Richard to be contacted, to get a message to the village, and then bring aid back to their location.
  6. Self motivation is, I believe, a big part of what helps Joe and Simon get up the mountain. In difficult situations, reassurance and motivation are big factors when achieving a main goal. Having someone telling you that you’ll be alright or that you can do it, even in the most dire of circumstances, can lift a person up and out of a hole. The way this works for Joe and Simon revolves around the men speaking their thoughts aloud, meaning that they register and process the information using another sensory organ, giving them a more objective viewpoint. Because their brains are processing the same information twice, it automatically registers it more like a fact than a possibility.

What has been included?

Critical questions: Extracts from “Touching the Void” – Joe Simpson

What images are presented in the text?
The main image we are presented with is of Simon and Richard starting the day at their camp. Simon’s narration of the first paragraph of the extract shows that he has fully recovered from the previous days events.
The deep tiredness I had felt yesterday was gone. The only remaining evidence of my ordeal was the sight of my blackened fingertips. Already I was forgetting that they were damaged and was surprised when I couldn’t fiddle with the small key to the petrol stove.”
This quote by Simon shows his eagerness to move on from the previous days events. Words like “forgetting” and “fully recovered,” the fact that he refrains from talking about the “ordeal” and the absence of Joe show that these events were probably unfavorable to Simon and the other two members of his team. Another idea that helps create this image is the fact that, until the end of the extract, there is no dialogue between Simon and Richard. This silence helps develop a negative atmosphere despite Simon’s positive outlook during the first paragraph.
At the beginning of the second paragraph Simon talks about “the bitter feelings” of the day before and how “they hadn’t diminished.” He then goes into more detail about Joe’s absence and how he felt the blame for what had happened to him. Despite all this he believes that he was “as much a victim as Joe,” and had done the right thing leaving him. He knows he should be able to leave but is unable to as the mountains, he feels, have a certain power over him, that’s stopping him from doing so.
The thoughts of having left Joe behind on the mountain and Simon’s eagerness to leave have created a tension between Simon and Richard resulting in the silence and the overall, negative image of the extract.