Members of a rescue team evaluate the terrain near the Mendenhall Towers as they search for the remains of climbers George “Ryan” Johnson and Marc-André Leclerc. (Courtesy Photo | Mike Janes)

Members of a rescue team evaluate the terrain near the Mendenhall Towers as they search for the remains of climbers George “Ryan” Johnson and Marc-André Leclerc. (Courtesy Photo | Mike Janes)

Mountaineers end search for climbers’ remains on Mendenhall Towers

Terrain still too treacherous, nearly eight months after search began

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 amccarthy@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.


British Columbia climber Marc-Andre Leclerc, 25, is pictured on a climb. (Courtesy photo | ARCTERYX)

British Columbia climber Marc-Andre Leclerc, 25, is pictured on a climb. (Courtesy photo | ARCTERYX)

Juneau climber George “Ryan” Johnson, 34, is pictured. (Courtesy photo | Ryan Johnson Closure & Milo Fund GoFundMe)

Juneau climber George “Ryan” Johnson, 34, is pictured. (Courtesy photo | Ryan Johnson Closure & Milo Fund GoFundMe)

More in News

A Princess Cruise Line ship is docked in Juneau on Aug. 25, 2021. (Michael Lockett / Juneau Empire File)
Ships in Port for the week of Aug. 7

Here’s what to expect this week.

This photo shows a notice to quit form, which is a first step in the long process of evictions that the Alaska Court System hopes to make easier with a grant-supported Eviction Diversion Initiative. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Grant-supported program could mean fewer eviction cases in Alaska’s courts

Eviction diversion program seeks to provide resources before a case is filed.

Supporters of U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski wait for an opportunity to talk to her at her newly Juneau campaign headquarters Thursday evening at Kootznoowoo Plaza. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Murkowski opens up at Juneau HQ debut

Senator chats with supporters about U.S. vs. Belgium voting, moose chili and Project Veritas

(Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

U.S. Senate candidate Shoshana Gungurstein stars in a campaign sign within view of the Alaska governor’s mansion. Gungurstein, an independent, got exposure this week for being a Hollywood actress under a different last name after questions about her past went unanswered throughout the campaign. She is one of 19 candidates seeking to be among the four selected in next Tuesday’s primary to compete in the November general election. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Senate candidate sheds more light on background

Shoshana Gungurstein responds at length to recent report on past film career.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Drug arrest made in Skagway

Police say a suspicious package was intercepted.

This late-April photo shows a damaged sticker on a door at Thunder Mountain High School reminding people to social distance and wear masks inside the building. Masks will not be required in school buildings this year. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
No mandatory masks or COVID-19 tests for new school year

No mandatory masks or COVID-19 tests for new school year

(Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Friday Aug. 12, 2022

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

From left, Kelsey Dean, watershed scientist with the Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition, and Kaagwaan Eesh Manuel Rose-Bell of Keex’ Kwáan watch as crew members set up tools to drag a log into place. Healthy salmon habitat requires woody debris, typically provided by falling branches and trees, which helps create deep salmon pools and varied stream structure. (Courtesy Photos / Mary Catharine Martin)
 
The SalmonState: Bringing the sockeye home

Klawock Indigenous Stewards and partners are working to a once prolific sockeye salmon run.

Most Read