[Updated] Marc-Andre Leclerc and Ryan Johnson Missing in Mendenhall Towers, Alaska
The two climbers are two days overdue after an ascent in the massif, located near Juneau. A search and rescue operation is underway.
Updated 10:00 am Mountain Standard Time, March 12
Late Sunday evening, Juneau Mountain Rescue reported on Facebook that it had conducted a helicopter search during the day along with the Alaska Army National Guard. “The helicopter and crew searched the Mendenhall Glacier for any sign of travel, and searched several possible descent routes on the South side of the Mendenhall Towers,” on Sunday, the post reports. “Weather conditions deteriorated and the flight returned to base after 2 hours of searching. The helicopter was then grounded for the remainder of the day due to severe wind shear and winter weather conditions on the ice field. The Alaska Army National Guard flight crew and Juneau Mountain Rescue are prepared to resume air operations at the first available weather window tomorrow morning (3/12).”
Marc-Andre Leclerc and Ryan Johnson’s family and friends have set up a GoFundMe campaign through which people can support the search and rescue operations. To donate, visit https://www.gofundme.com/592fn8w.
The Canadian alpinist Marc-Andre Leclerc and the American alpinist Ryan Johnson are missing in action out on the Mendenhall Ice Field, in Juneau, Alaska. The pair made an ascent in the Mendenhall Towers on Monday, March 5, and planned to return to Juneau by Wednesday at the latest. Leclerc posted to Instagram from a summit on Monday, “Rare live update here… that is Mt Fairweather in the distance.”
When the climbers were reported as overdue, Alaska State Troopers and Juneau Mountain Rescue mobilized a search operation for the missing climbers. According to a dispatch from the State Troopers posted at 2:26 PST on Thursday, March 8, “The pair were last in communication with family/friends on 3/5/18 after climbing to the top of the Towers.”
The dispatch also notes that “there was a significant snow storm in the Juneau area on 3/7/18 and neither individual is reportedly equipped with a SAT phone or emergency beacon.”
According to an article in Anchorage Daily News, search and rescue located the gear cache to which Leclerc and Johnson had intended to ski out after their ascent. In the same article, State Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters is quoted as writing in an email, “We know they climbed to the top … it appears they didn’t make it back down to the gear they didn’t need for climbing.”
The search and rescue operation is still ongoing.
Leclerc, 25, has been a rising alpine climbing star over the past several years. He has made daring free solos in British Columbia, which he calls home, but has made his biggest mark in Patagonia. In 2015, Leclerc soloed the Corkscrew, a 5.10d A1 route on Cerro Torre, which Rolando Garibotti called an ascent of “earth-shifting proportions, by far the hardest route ever soloed on Cerro Torre.”
Johnson, 34 and a Juneau local, has made waves in the Mendenhall Towers before. In 2011, he freed a line on the South Buttress of the Main Tower in the group with Gabe Hayden, and in 2008 established Great White Conqueror, a difficult 2,500 foot line on the West Tower.
Ryan Johnson, 34, died in the Mendenhall Towers, outside Juneau, Alaska, sometime in the days following March 5, 2018. He had just completed a first ascent on the North Face of the Main Tower with his partner, Marc-André Leclerc, who also died on the descent. Below, Samuel Johnson (unrelated) remembers his close friend and partner Ryan—his achievements, his passion, his warmth, his kindness.read more
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“I was completely detached from the world below. There was nothing but climbing. No goal, no future, no past. I was climbing in the here and now. One swing of the ice axe after the other, one step after the other.”read more