Mendenhall Towers climbers presumed deceased; search ends

The search for two climbers missing on the Juneau Icefield has ended.

Alaska State Troopers say George “Ryan” Johnson, 34, of Juneau and Marc-Andre Leclerc, 25, of British Columbia are presumed deceased.

Their families have been notified.

Serge Leclerc wrote on Facebook Tuesday evening: “Sadly we have lost 2 really great climber(s) and I lost a son I am very proud of.”

Johnson and Leclerc were reported missing last Wednesday. Poor weather has hampered search efforts over the last week.

During a break in the weather Tuesday, a Coastal Helicopters aircraft with members of Juneau Mountain Rescue on board flew out to the north face of the Mendenhall Towers.

Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said an intact anchor rope was spotted at the top of an ice chute on the fourth tower. Searchers also found other climbing ropes in a crevasse midway down the tower.

“They were able to see some climbing ropes that matched the description of what the climbers used,” Peters said.

Peters said they don’t plan on a recovery operation because of the avalanche danger and other safety hazards.

Peters said searchers were able to home in on the pair’s location after a getting a signal back from a RECCO reflector. Different from avalanche beacons, RECCO reflectors are sometimes built inside helmets, boots or outdoor clothing and can reflect a signal that is transmitted by searchers — even when covered by snow.

“Essentially, if you go under the snow and people are looking for you, they can use this RECCO unit, which different search and rescue entities have,” Peters said. “It’ll get a hit, letting them know you’re in that area.”

Peters said new files were created in a missing persons database in the event the climbers’ remains are discovered later.

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