'He knows what he's doing': Family hopeful for missing B.C. climber in Alaska

Family of a well-known climber based in Squamish, B.C., missing from an ice field in Alaska say they're hopeful he's safe, despite fearing for his life.

'I have no fear that, if he's alive, then he's simply holed up somewhere taking it day by day'

Marc-Andre LeClerc pictured here with partner and fellow climber Brette Harrington in February, 2018. (Brette Harrington/Instagram)

Family of a well-known climber based in Squamish, B.C., missing from an ice field in Alaska say they're hopeful he's safe, despite fearing for his life. 

"I am keeping my head above water. Obviously it's stressful," said Eli Leclerc, brother of Marc-Andre Leclerc. "We don't know where he is or how he's doing."

The Alaska Department of Public Safety didn't provide any public updates Saturday or Sunday on the search for Marc-Andre and his climbing partner, George Johnson of Juneau, Alaska.

Marc-Andre Leclerc and his climbing partner, George Johnson were reported missing March 7. (Marc-Andre Leclerc/Instagram)

The two climbers were reported missing March 7 after being dropped off for a ski and hiking trip to Mendenhall Towers on the Juneau ice field three days before.

Eli said state troopers last told his mother, Michelle Kuipers, that the search was temporarily suspended because of weather conditions. He also said his brother has "incredible survival skills."

"He knows what he's doing if something has gone wrong," Eli said from his home in Agassiz, B.C.

"I have no fear that, if he's alive, then he's simply holed up somewhere taking it day by day and waiting for the troopers to come."

Kuipers and Leclerc's step-father live in Agassiz. His father, who was trying to make his way to Juneau on Saturday, lives in Burnaby. Kuipers is already there along with LeClerc's partner and fellow climber Brette Harrington.

"He's a professional," she said on Sunday. "He doesn't take any unnecessary risks."

'He is extremely calculated'

Eli described his brother as very energetic, happy and easy to talk to. He said Marc-Andre's face would light up whenever he spoke about climbing — a sport he had been practicing for years. 

"Watching my brother climb on YouTube videos is the most cool, enjoyable and also f--king terrifying thing I've ever seen," Eli said.

"He is extremely calculated, knows exactly what he's doing at all times."

Toby Foord-Kelcey with the Squamish Access Society, a climbing advocacy group, said Marc-Andre Leclerc is "very widely admired and liked" in the town's climbing community. 

"Marc comes [across] as a very a modest guy who is primarily motivated by his love of being in the mountains, and quite reluctant to talk about his achievements," Foord-Kelcey said. 

"However, objectively he is one of the most accomplished and bold young mountaineers in the world."

Foord-Kelcey noted Leclerc's solo ascents of Cerro Torre in Patagonia and the Emperor Face of Mount Robson in B.C. as some of his most notable achievements. 

Marc-Andre Leclerc was recently profiled in Climbing magazine

About the Author

Maryse Zeidler

@MaryseZeidler

Maryse Zeidler is a reporter for CBC News in Vancouver, covering news from across British Columbia. You can reach her at maryse.zeidler@cbc.ca.