Scott Cosgrove, Bold Yosemite Climber, Passes Away

Scott “Cozzy” Cosgrove, a bold and visionary climber, passed away on February 24, 2016.

By Rock and Ice | February 25th, 2016

Cosgrove on the Muir Wall, El Cap, Yosemite. Photo by Kurt Smith.Scott “Cozzy” Cosgrove, 51, passed away while hiking alone in the Santa Monica hills near his home in California yesterday afternoon, February 24, 2016. Although the cause of his death is unknown at this time, friends and family of Cosgrove believe that he likely died due to complications from past injuries.

Cory Dudley, longtime friend of Cosgrove, shared the news in a Supertopo forum: “I’m deeply saddened to have lost a great friend and someone who loved my family and mom as though they were his own.

“Scott and I have been friends for 46 years and we have shared just about every major life event together.

“He fought an epic battle to recover from his fall over a year ago and just … [a] few days ago we were talking about and making some small goals to hike parts of the John Muir Trail together … ”


On October 2, 2014, Cosgrove sustained severe injuries in a near-fatal rigging accident. He fell from a crane hoist 30 feet to the concrete floor in an airplane hanger in the North San Fernando Valley, California.

He suffered multiple compound fractures to his wrist, leg and skull, broke ribs, and “basically shatter[ed] every bone in his upper face,” John Long, friend of Cosgrove, reported on Facebook at the time. “ … but astonishingly, no major organ damage, no spinal issues and aside from swelling on the brain, requiring a drainage tube/stint, no significant brain damage.”

Cosgrove was in a coma and in critical condition following the accident.

“He has always defied the doctors and will again,” Kurt Smith, another longtime friend of Cosgrove, told Rock and Ice in the days after the accident. “This is the most severe, but he’s been through some brutal things in the past and I feel like he can get through this one, too.”

In 1994, two years after a car accident left him with a broken ankle and doubts that he would be able to walk again, Cosgrove, partnered with Smith, freed all but 30 feet of the 32-pitch Muir Wall on El Capitan, Yosemite.

In his time in the Valley, Cosgrove climbed El Cap over 28 times—his first time at age 18, after learning to climb two years prior—and he served on the Yosemite Search and Rescue team for eight seasons, according to the California Mountain Guides website, a guiding company that Cosgrove founded.


One of Cosgrove’s most notable climbing achievements came in 1987 when he and Dave Schultz made the first free ascent of Southern Belle (5.12c R/X) on the South Face of Half Dome. Southern Belle was established with just a few points of aid by the late Walt Shipley and Schultz, who drilled the route’s scant bolts on lead, ground up and onsight. The route has only seen a few repeats since.

Smith called Cosgrove and Schultz’s all-free ascent “probably the boldest ground-up free climb ever done in Yosemite.”

Other major first ascents of Cosgrove’s included the 18-pitch The Wild, Wild West, on Central Tower, Torres del Paine, Patagonia over two months in 1989 to 1990 with Jay Smith; G-String (5.13d), a 70-foot sport test-piece in Joshua Tree, California, in 1991; and the 24-pitch Yukon Tears (5.12c) on Mount Proboscis, Yukon, Canada with Smith, Jeff Jackson and Greg Epperson, in 1994. His resume states that he established over 400 first ascents, worldwide, and that he was the first American to establish a 5.14 climb.

Despite being known for his cutting edge, bold and dangerous ascents, Cosgrove boasted a record 6,400+ client guide days—having guided trips to Jordan, the Himalaya, Alaska, Canada, Thailand and Australia—with a flawless accident rating, according to the California Mountain Guides website.

Along with guiding, Cosgrove worked as a stagehand, stunt rigger and performer for television and film. Since 1987, he rigged and performed in 37 feature films—including 300, Rush Hour 3, TRON: Legacy, and The Hunger Games—as well as for multiple television series and commercials, according to his IMDb profile. He won the Screen Actors Guild Award and Taurus World Stunts Award for his work on 300.

His profile states that he was proud to have taught Jennifer Lawrence how to climb for the first Hunger Games.

Following the news of his death, memories and photos of Cosgrove flooded Supertopo forums. One user comments: “Though we all must depart this world, some live on forever as legends in the minds and lives of those they inspire. 

“Scott is one of those Legends.”

Please feel free to share your thoughts, memories and love in the comments below.


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This article will be updated as more information is available.

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