Missing Squamish climber, companion presumed dead in Alaska
Marc-André Leclerc, 25, and Ryan Johnson, 34, were reported missing March 7
B.C. rock climber Marc-André Leclerc and his climbing partner Ryan Johnson are presumed dead after their gear was found above and in a crevasse on a mountain in Alaska, seven days after they were reported missing.
Juneau Search and Rescue crews spotted climbing ropes at the top of an ice chute on the northern tower on Tuesday. Another set of ropes matching the description of Leclerc's and Johnson's gear was seen in a crevasse.
"Due to the circumstances, Johnson and Leclerc are presumed deceased," said a statement from Alaska State Troopers.
Serge Leclerc, Marc-André's father, posted a message on his Facebook page late Tuesday night.
"Sadly, we have lost two really great climbers and I lost a son I am very proud of,'' he wrote. "Marc-André was an amazing, loving man and he has touched many lives in so many ways."
Marc-André Leclerc, 25, and Johnson, 34 — from Squamish and Juneau, respectively — hadn't been heard from since they posted a photo from the top of the towers on March 5.
Alaskan State Troopers said a severe snowstorm hit the area that day. Relentless poor weather hampered search efforts, but crews were able to search the north face of the mountain on Tuesday.
The state said recovery efforts aren't possible because of significant avalanche risk and other safety hazards.
Long list of accomplishments
Leclerc is being described as a legend, hero, visionary and an international fixture in the climbing community; the "Sidney Crosby" of the sport.
"He was already someone that stuck out in the climbing community as somebody who was doing things nobody ever had. He was doing things people had never really dreamed possible — he was doing them faster than other people and he was doing them without ropes," said Brandon Pullan, editor in chief of Gripped climbing magazine.
"When I first met him, I was in awe because you don't meet climbers like that very often."
Pullan met Leclerc when the latter was a teenager, looking for a place to stay during a trip to the Rockies. They became friends over the years, swapping stories whenever Leclerc came to stay.
"To be there at the end of the day when he came home and to hear the stories first, it was awesome, because they really are the things legends are made of," said Pullan.
Leclerc had worked with the outdoor clothing company Arc'teryx as a sponsored athlete for five years. Company spokesperson John Irvine described both Leclerc and Johnson as extremely experienced, "world-class" athletes.
"He was very skilled, like Sidney Crosby in hockey ... but he didn't wear his exploits on his sleeve," he said.
"What he wore on his sleeve was an infectious passion for being in the mountains — that's what his modus operandi was: to share that passion with as many people as he could."
Another longtime friend, Will Stanhope, said Leclerc's skill was only matched by his spirit.
"Marc was an incredibly genuine, caring, young guy," he said. "You could be in Squamish, climbing your first [easy climb] and he would be just as friendly to you as the best climber in the world. He was just a really great, genuine spirit."
Among Leclerc's long list of accomplishments are scaling Cerro Torre in Patagonia and the Emperor Face of Mount Robson in British Columbia. He was known for pioneering new routes around the world.
In 2013, Leclerc set a record by solo climbing the Grand Wall of the Stawamus Chief — a sheer, steep, exposed rock wall north of Vancouver — in 58 minutes.
Pullan said the hole Leclerc leaves in the climbing community will likely never be filled.
"There's only a few climbers like Marc in the world. He was probably the first and only Canadian like him to have his drive, his motivation and his vision… there's a lot of barriers that won't be broken down now that he's gone," he said.
"To lose Marc, it's really a blow to the entire Canadian and international climbing scene."
- A previous version of this story included an incorrect age for Leclerc. He was 25.Mar 14, 2018 11:47 AM PT
With files from Maryse Zeidler