Eight months after two climbers died scaling the Mendenhall Towers, the terrain around their remains is still too treacherous to access, according to a press release from Juneau Mountain Rescue.
JMR and the Alaska State Troopers recently suspended their efforts to recover the remains of Juneau climber George “Ryan” Johnson and British Columbia climber Marc-André Leclerc. Throughout the summer and fall, JMR tried to access the area where the remains are believed to be.
That area is exposed to rockfall and icefall and contains deep crevasses, according to the JMR release, and now it’s covered by snow again.
“At this time, it is presumed that the remains of the climbers lie in a hazardous and inaccessible area, making a recovery infeasible,” the release stated.
Johnson and Leclerc, two experienced and respected climbers, scaled the north face of what is called the Main Tower in March. As they rappelled down a gulley on the north side of the towers something went wrong. JMR personnel found their ropes and gear in a crevasse in that gulley, using a technology that had never been used for a search-and-rescue in Alaska, according to searchers at the time.
The Mendenhall Towers are jagged peaks that rise nearly 7,000 feet above the Juneau Ice Field. The towers, about 12 miles north of Juneau, provide a backdrop to the Mendenhall Glacier and attract climbers from near and far.
Since then, JMR and other agencies have monitored the area and waited for a safe time to go. Even as snow melted during the third-warmest summer in Juneau’s recorded history, the terrain still proved too treacherous. Other agencies involved include: the U.S. Coast Guard, Alaska State Troopers, Alaska Army National Guard, Alaska Incident Management Team, South East Alaska Dogs Organized for Ground Search, Coastal Helicopters, Northstar Trekking, and Alaska Search and Rescue Dogs.
There was a large outpouring of support after the tragedy in March, as separate GoFundMe pages for the Leclerc family and to support Johnson’s young child raised more than $40,000 and more than $60,000, respectively. The latter fundraising effort for Johnson’s family has raised nearly $64,000 of its $65,000 goal. According to the GoFundMe page, the money will be used for assisting family and friends with costs related to Johnson’s death, and setting up a fund for Ryan’s son who was just 2 years old as of this spring. The money will go to the son’s care and education.
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.