Second Ascent of Purgatory E8 7b by David Murray

© Mark Savage Photography

David Murray has made the second ascent of Adam Watson's Purgatory (E8 7b) (E8 7b) at Back Bowden, Northumberland; a short, bold route, which starts up Lost Cause and moves left to rise up the blunt arête to the right of Transcendence (UKC News report).

David Murray celebrates his second ascent of Purgatory E8 7b.
© Mark Savage Photography

Northumberland is known for bold climbing and quiet crushers, but recently there has been some noise in The County. Local David Murray has taken the second ascent of Purgatory E8 7b at Back Bowden Doors. The line follows up the arête above a smattering of gear to a series of bouldery Font 8A+ moves, including a one point of contact moment mid-crux.

David's ascent comes nearly 4 years after the first ascent by Adam Watson, who spent five years with it under his skin. David commented: "Adam is a good mate, and the fact that it's his route inspired me to look at it in the first place. When you stand underneath, it doesn't look like it should be able to be climbed. I first pulled on last month, after that I couldn't think about climbing anything else and I was making good progress with every session. It's my style but pushing my limit, which had me hooked."

Adam is currently in Australia, but nonetheless heard of the send: "It's cool that someone has taken the time to repeat the route. Doing short, hard trad routes feels like it's going out of fashion a little bit, so it's nice to see Purgatory getting attention. It took me 5 years from first trying it to sending, and it consumed my climbing life very quickly. There was a lot mystery surrounding the route; Mark Savage (who made me aware of it) had stories of him and others trying it, holds snapping and then thinking it impossible."

Mark Savage has witnessed (and photographed) both ascents. "You don't expect to see a route as hard as Purgatory get climbed very often", he said. "When Adam first climbed it in December 2013, I knew it would be a while until the second ascent and it's been almost four years, which gives you an idea of how hard it is. It's always a privilege to see someone really pushing themselves on a hard climb, and David was really giving it everything. He didn't have it completely wired either. It can be tempting to top-rope something into submission, but he'd fallen off a few times whilst working it beforehand, and conditions weren't ideal, so the outcome was never certain. On the lead, he climbed smoothly and in control. It wasn't until I was looking at the photos afterwards that I noticed something that looked odd. I hadn't seen it at the time, but there was the rope wrapped behind his leg on the 7b crux move!"

This was most heart stopping for belayer (Murray Snr), who was the only one to notice the position of the rope during the cut loose. An inverted fall at that point would likely result in a deadly kiss with the rising slab at the base of the climb. Mark added, "I've witnessed a couple of very nasty accidents as well as a couple of near misses due to climbers not paying attention to the rope, so I have been known to be 'that person' who delivers spontaneous warnings on the consequences. Even though David was wearing a helmet, it could have been a very nasty accident indeed, and if he hadn't been wearing a helmet and fallen off, it could have been fatal. Those are all ifs and buts though, and a reminder for us all."

David Murray on the crux of Purgatory. Note the rope around his leg.
© Mark Savage Photography

David reflected: "On the day, I was nervous but confident that I could do it. While I was climbing I wasn't thinking about the rope, the gear or the potential fall. I was fully focused on each move, but with my nerves I forgot to step around the rope. Thankfully, I can walk away with a lesson learned."

David's success is made all the sweeter by the support of a County crew who are unreservedly psyched and supportive in equal measure. Adam summed it up: "I'm so happy that David managed the second ascent, it's great when your routes get repeated but if feels even better when it's your mate that repeats them! Good effort dude, here's to many more!"

Watch the video of David's ascent:

David is sponsored by: Scarpa

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12 Dec, 2017
Excellent. Is the flake he initially rocks up onto the same one that you rock up onto on Lost Cause?
"a short, bold route, which starts up Lost Cause and moves left to rise up the blunt arête to the right of Transcendence" - as such I'd presume so. On a separate and completely unrelated note, seeing that pic of the rope behind David's leg is enough to give me nightmares... Good effort!
13 Dec, 2017
Amazing line!
13 Dec, 2017
That just looks awesomely hard!
13 Dec, 2017
Unfortunately the video makes it look ridiculously easy (for 7b!) since it doesn't show the angle, and he's up it in about 10 seconds. A lot of these short hard routes I think have to really be seen in the flesh to appreciate them properly.
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