I think that if one were actually climbing a cliff, one would find it pretty antagonistic at that point. How many times in a day do we say, "Stupid thing!" How many times do we say "because my computer hates me"? Personification is not only one of the basic literary tools, but is something we do constantly in our real lives.
You're free to write while completely ignoring the 'rules' of storycraft, just like you're free to whistle without any knowledge of music theory, and you're free to draw without knowing anything about e.g. perspective, golden ratios, and the rule of thirds. But if you're actually interested in making something that will be of interest to anyone other than yourself, wouldn't it be better to underestand these rules and the reason why they exist? To understand what it means for your work that you do not follow them, and learn what you can do to either compensate for the lack* or fill the hole with something else**?
*For example, infodumps and extended exposition are bad, but if your story has a humorous or otherwise interesting voice, this is a great place to show that off and keep the audience's interest.
**For example, revealing a secret to the reader (especially if the secret is that there is a secret) can work as the 'setback' of a scene even when nothing changes to the characters, because it fills the same purpose: dangling a new carrot in front of the reader as the old one is eaten or pulled away.
Specifically with the cliff: it can be as meaningful as anything to the character, but a writer's job isn't to make things meaningful to characters. A writer's job is to make things meaningful to readers. Conflict provides that connection, breaking down the action into a primal struggle that resonates with anyone on a basic level. It turns the shape of the story into something you recognize unconsciously even if you don't personally give a damn about cliffs or the dude climbing one.
Edited by kurokaze, 06 May 2012 - 12:29 AM.