State Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters confirmed 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.
LeClerc and Johnson were attempting to summit the Mendenhall Towers, a 6,910-foot formation of jagged rock jutting up from the Juneau Icefield, about 12 miles north of Juneau behind the Mendenhall Glacier. 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.
Before climbing the towers, Leclerc and Johnson stashed gear needed for the ski out, Peters said, and that gear hasn’t yet been picked up, indicating the pair hasn’t yet made it down from the Towers. That’s as much as AST knows about the pair’s status as of Saturday.
“What is known is they made it to the top and they did not make it back to their gear to ski out,” State Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters wrote in a dispatch.
When the climbers were reported as overdue, Alaska State Troopers and Juneau Mountain Rescue (JMR) mobilized a search operation for the missing climbers, with the help of a US Coast Guard helicopter. The search and rescue team made four flights with search teams onboard Thursday, according to a Saturday night JMR press release.
“Passes were made of the climbers’ planned Mendenhall Glacier exit route, along with their probable ascent and descent routes on the Mendenhall Towers,” the press release reads. The team was able to locate Johnson and Leclerc’s stashed gear during these flights, but snow and wind limited further access, JMR said.
Snowy weather thwarted the continued helicopter search for the climbers this weekend, Alaska State Troopers say, but the search will resume today or as weather allows.
“We’re on weather hold but we’re still planning to fly with them (the Guard) tomorrow,” Ebert said. “As soon as we get the weather, we do have the clearance to fly.”
Both Johnson and Leclerc are well-known climbers. Johnson, 34, has pioneered routes on the Mendenhall Towers, while Leclerc is internationally known for climbing feats in Argentina and Canada and is listed on the Arc’teryx outdoor company website as a rock climbing athlete.
Johnson’s business partner, Logan Lott, said he’s worried the pair do not have a satellite phone or an avalanche beacon with them, a fact reported by AST’s Thursday dispatch. Climbers have told media that there is cellular service near the Mendenhall Towers and climbers will sometimes opt to pack cellphones instead of satellite phones. Leclerc posted a photo on Instagram from the climb, suggesting he had a cellphone with him.
Text messages Lott sent to Johnson on Monday afternoon went unread, which isn’t typical of his friend and business partner.
“I’m worried about him, more so than anything,” Lott said.