The climbing community is mourning the tragic loss of world-class alpinists Marc-André Leclerc and George “Ryan” Johnson, who are believed to have died on a climb outside Juneau, Alaska.
The pair were summiting a new route on the Mendenhall Towers on March 5 and were expected to return two days later. When they didn’t, Juneau Mountain Rescue and Alaska State Troopers deployed an extensive search and rescue effort.
But the search was called off Monday after teams found two ropes matching the description of their gear in a run-out area. Avalanche dangers have hindered any recovery, according to an Arc’teryx Equipment statement.
Leclerc, 25, of British Columbia, is considered one of Canada’s most accomplished climbers. According to his Arc’teryx sponsor page, his feats included a number of first ascents in Patagonia and Canada, including on Cerro Torre and Slesse Mountain, respectively.
Johnson, 34, of Juneau, Alaska, was familiar with the Mendenhall Towers and climbs all over the world. He was one of this year’s recipients of The American Alpine Club Cutting Edge Grant to travel to the Alaska Range to Attempt the East Face of Mt. Hayes. He attempted the line in 2013, but weather and illness shut down the expedition.
Leclerc’s father, Serge, shared on Facebook on Monday: “To all of our friends near and far who have been supporting us and praying for Marc-André I wanted you all to hear it from me first hand before it’s in the news. Sadly we have lost 2 really great climber and I lost a son I am very proud of."
He went on to write, "Thank you for the support during this difficult time. My heart is so broken...Part of me is gone with him...Our family appreciate all of your prayers and we would like to ask for a time of privacy as we come to grip with these devastating developments... Marc-André was an amazing, loving man and he has touched many lives in so many ways. He will be remembered and loved forever. I know he is with our Lord and I will be with him again one day.”
Alex Honnold also shared a note about the climber on Facebook yesterday.
Two GoFundMe fundraisers have been organized to support the climbers' families. The page for Leclerc was initially set up to send his father, friends, and partner, Brette Harrington, to assist in the search. Funds raised for Johnson will go toward supporting his family, including his 2-year-old son, Milo.