Search continues for accomplished B.C. climber missing in Alaskan range

Marc-Andre Leclerc, 24, of Squamish, B.C., has been missing for close to a week

An accomplished B.C. alpinist spent 10 years training for the Alaskan mountain range where he disappeared last week, a family friend said.

Marc-Andre Leclerc, 24, of Squamish, B.C., and his climbing partner Ryan Johnson, 34, of Juneau, Alaska, have been missing for nearly a week.

Treya Klassen, a close friend of Leclerc’s father, said the young man has had his eye on climbing Mendenhall Towers for years.

“He’s seasoned to do this. He’s trained to be able to survive a lot. He trained, so hopefully he’s holed up in a cave, waiting out a storm,” she said.

On Wednesday morning Alaska State Troopers were alerted that Leclerc and Johnson had not returned from climbing the mountains, which are located in the Mendenhall Ice Field north of Juneau.

They had been dropped off near the moutain ridge on March 4. Leclerc posted an Instagram photo from near the summit of th 2,100-metre main tower the following day, but officials said he hasn’t been heard from since, even though they were supposed to hike and ski back to Juneau by Wednesday evening.

There was a significant snow storm in the region on Wednesday and neither of the men were equipped with a satellite phone or emergency beacon.

Some of the men’s gear has been found, but the search for the men is ongoing.

Klassen said helicopters scoured the area Sunday, but had to call off the search later in the day because there was too much cloud cover. She said a K-9 unit will hit the ground Monday.

A chartered Coastal Helicopter with Juneau Mountain Rescue personnel and the U.S. Coast Guard are assisting in the search.

Outside magazine has called Leclerc “one of the best young alpinists in the world,” and his biography on sponsor Arc’Teryx’s website said Leclerc completed several ascents in Canada and Patagonia.

“He’s a powerful human being. It takes something to do these endeavours,” said Klassen, who set up a fundraising page in his name to help the family travel to Alaska to participate in the search.

“He’s an amazing human being and he comes from an amazing family.”

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press

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