Marc-Andre Leclerc and Ryan Johnson Missing in Alaska
March 22, 2019
Updated at noon on 3/12: On Sunday, Juneau Mountain Rescue was able to search via helicopter with the Alaska Army National Guard due to a weather window. The crew scanned possible descent routes on the south side of the towers. After two hours, however, the weather deteriorated and forced the team to abandon the search for the day. Sergeant Nick Zito of the Alaska State Troopers said that recent slide activity was seen on the north side of the towers during one of the flights. Search and rescue crew are currently standing by, waiting for a break in weather that would allow them to resume the search. A GoFundMe page has been set up to provide financial assistance to the rescue efforts.
A search is on in the mountains outside Juneau, Alaska, for alpinists Marc-André Leclerc, 25, and Ryan Johnson, 34. The pair, from Agassiz, British Columbia, and Juneau, respectively, were attempting a climb on the Mendenhall Towers, 12 miles north of Juneau.
The two men made an ascent of the 6,910-foot main tower via the north face, a route that appears to have never been climbed before. Leclerc posted an Instagram photo from near the summit on Monday. It’s the last they were heard from.
The two climbers were dropped off near the towers on Sunday, March, 4th, and were supposed to hike out via the West Mendenhall Glacier Trail no later than Wednesday evening, according to a dispatch from the Alaska Department of Public Safety, State Troopers. When they didn’t return, friends and family notified search and rescue.
A storm blew through the Juneau area Wednesday evening, dropping between two and seven inches of snow.
Neither man, it seems, was wearing an emergency beacon or carrying a SAT phone. Local climber Jacek Maselko told the Juneau Empire that it isn’t uncommon for climbers traveling to the Towers to go without a SAT phone, since there is cell service in much of the area.
On Thursday morning Juneau Mountain Rescue initiated a search with assistance from the U.S. Coast Guard.
Alaska State Troopers say that some of the men’s gear that they had cached for the trip out has been found.
“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,” troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters wrote in an email to Anchorage Daily News.
The search was suspended Thursday night around 5 p.m. due to mechanical issues and poor weather.
Johnson had ample experience in the range. In March 2008, he made the first ascent of the north face of the West Tower with Sam Magro and in 2011 he free climbed a line on the south buttress of the main tower. For his part, Leclerc is one of the best young alpinists in the world, making difficult first ascents in British Columbia and Patagonia. In February 2015, at just 22 years old, he became the first climber to solo the Corkscrew route on Cerro Torre in Patagonia. The 4,000-foot route is still the hardest line ever soloed in that range.
We'll continue to update this story as we get more information.