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Prolific Yosemite climber Zach Milligan, who lived in cave, dies in fall on Canadian Rockies: reports

Zach Milligan, 42, died last week in an apparent fall from the 2,300-foot-tall Polar Circus ice cliff at Jasper National Park in the Canadian Rockies, according to reports.

A famed climber, who lived in a cave at Yosemite National Park for 13 years, died last week in an apparent fall in the Canadian Rockies, according to reports.

Zach Milligan, 42, was discovered on Feb. 12 at the bottom of Polar Circus, a nearly 2,300-foot-tall ice cliff, in Jasper National Park, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police told Gripped.

"They found what appeared to be the deceased person at the bottom of a cliff in that area," Sgt. Susan Richter told the climbing magazine.

An autopsy was scheduled to determine Milligan’s cause of death, but police said it appeared to be accidental, the Calgary Sun reported. 

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Milligan’s friend, Chris Van Leuven, remembered the 42-year-old climber as an adventurous and kind spirit.

"He is my favorite dude, and I really loved his honesty — I loved his personality, his black-and-white way of viewing the world, his dedication to his craft and his high ethics," Van Leuven told the paper.

Milligan was a high-level free soloist, a type of climber who climbed alone without the aid of ropes. He gained worldwide recognition along with his friend, Jason Torlano, for becoming the first two people to descend Yosemite’s Half Dome on skis in February 2021.

Milligan grew up in Tucker, Georgia, and knew he would become a climber after seeing a photo of the Half Dome while getting a haircut at a barbershop at 18 years old.

 "I was like, ‘Where is that?’ I knew I needed to climb it," Milligan told Gripped last year.

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Milligan had lived at Yosemite National Park for 20 years, spending 13 years of them in a cave, while working for the park’s cleaning service, Best Bet, Van Leuven wrote in a piece for Outside in honor of his friend. 

Three years ago, Milligan moved to Bozeman, Montana, and opened his own flooring business while continuing to climb.

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"You feel like you’re in contact with God," Milligan had told Gripped of free soloing. "It makes me feel like I’m in a magical place."

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