Marc-André Leclerc dies aged 25 in Alaska

© Marc-Andre Leclerc

Accomplished Canadian alpinist Marc-André Leclerc (25) has passed away near Juneau, Alaska together with his climbing partner Ryan Johnson. On 5th March, the pair had established a new route on the north face of the Main Tower of the Mendenhall Towers, but were reported missing after they failed to return as planned on Wednesday 7th. Alaska State Troopers have called off the six-day search within the last 24 hours.

Marc-Andre Leclerc on the first solo ascent of The Corkscrew
© Marc-Andre Leclerc

Marc-André had posted a photo to Instagram from the summit showing blue skies, reading "Rare live update here... that is Mt Fairweather in the distance" and the pair also sent some text messages at this point. Having been flown in on March 4th by helicopter, their failure to return last Wednesday alerted rescue teams, who began planning a search. Weather conditions deteriorated overnight, with snow storms hampering rescue attempts.

Rare live update here... that is Mt Fairweather in the distance.

A post shared by Marc-Andre Leclerc (@mdre92) on

Multiple search and rescue missions by Juneau Mountain Rescue Team, the Alaska State Troopers and the Alaska Army National Guard were carried out in the following days, with difficult weather conditions limiting attempts to small windows of opportunity. Today, a GoFundMe page set up to assist with rescue costs was updated with a personal message from Marc-André's father, Serge:

"To all of our friends near and far who have been supporting us and praying for Marc-André I wanted you all to hear it from me first hand before it's in the news. Sadly we have lost 2 really great climbers and I lost a son I am very proud of. Thank you for the support during this difficult time. My heart is so broken...Part of me is gone with him...

Our family appreciates all of your prayers and we would like to ask for a time of privacy as we come to grip with these devastating developments... Marc-André was an amazing, loving man and he has touched many lives in so many ways. He will be remembered and loved forever. I know he is with our Lord and I will be with him again one day."

The page update read:

'All support for this page will now go to the family and Marc's partner Brette to manage and deal with the multitude of items they now have in front of them. As well as much needed respite and closure costs.

Thank you to everyone for all your messages and contribution. Our community is strong and we will get though this as a loving collective. Our gratitude goes to the Juneau Mountian rescue for all the effort and care they gave to search.'

A dispatch from the Alaska Department of Public Safety, State Troopers Public Information Office reported yesterday that the pair are now presumed dead.

"On 3/13/2018, weather cleared and search assets were able to be deployed. The chartered Coastal helicopter, with Juneau Mountain Rescue members on board, was able to reach the north face of the Mendenhall Towers. An intact anchor rope was seen at the top of an ice shoot on the 4th Tower. Two climbing ropes were also seen in a crevasse midway down the 4th Tower. The ropes match the description of the gear carried by Johnson and Leclerc. Due to the circumstances, Johnson and Leclerc are presumed deceased. Due to continuing significant avalanche danger and safety hazards, recovery efforts are not feasible at this time. Next of kin for Johnson and Leclerc have been notified."

Ryan Johnson (34) was local to Juneau and was familiar with the Mendenhall Towers, having made the first ascent of a route on the north face of the West Tower in 2008 with Sam Magro. Three years later in July 2011, Ryan returned with Gabe Hayden to make the first free ascent of the South Buttress Direct on the Main Tower. He was a recipient of the prestigious North American mountaineering prize, the Mugs Stump Award, and this year received one of the American Alpine Club's Cutting Edge grants for an expedition to the east face of Mt. Hayes, in the Alaska Range. A GoFundMe page has been set up to assist family and friends with costs related to Ryan's passing and to contribute to a fund for Ryan's two-and-a-half year-old son, Milo.

Marc-Andre Leclerc having fun on Mt. Slesse.  © Tom Livingstone
Marc-Andre Leclerc having fun on Mt. Slesse.
© Tom Livingstone

Marc-André made numerous cutting-edge first ascents in Canadian mountain ranges and has many Patagonian first ascents to his name - including the first solo of The Corkscrew, the first solo winter ascent of Torre Egger and the first ascent of the Reverse Torre Traverse with Colin Haley in 2015. His talent for bold solos extended to a Scottish winter climbing trip in 2016, where, on his first day, he soloed:

Scabbard Chimney (V 6) V, Tilt (Winter) (VI 7) VI, Chimney Route (VI 6) VI, a harder variation of Twisting Grooves (IV 5) into Moonshadow (IV 5)(?) and Spectre (V 6).

The following day he continued with:

Tower Ridge (IV 3) IV, Thompson's Route (IV 4) IV, downclimbed from the last few metres of Winter Chimney (IV 5) V, up the ice smear right of Winter Chimney, Gargoyle Wall (VI 6), Green Gully (IV 3) and The Banshee.

And the next day:

Point Five Gully (V 5) V, Hadrian's Wall Direct (V 5) V, Smith's Route (V 5) V, Minus Two Buttress (V 5) V into Northeast Buttress, Italian Right-Hand (IV 4) IV into Tower Ridge (IV 3), before climbing Happy Tyroleans (IX) IX in the Cairngorms with Jon Walsh.

A video captured Marc's thoughts on Scottish winter climbing:

In January this year, Marc-André made a first winter ascent with Tom Livingstone of Navigator Wall on Mt. Slesse in the Canadian Cascades, a route that he had free soloed in summer (UKC News Report).

Read a tribute to Marc-André by Brandon Pullan, a close friend and editor of
Read a UKC interview with Marc-André about his Scotland trip.

Watch a video below of Marc-André climbing Sioux Wall:

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14 Mar, 2018

Marc was without a doubt the most humble and one of the most talented climbers I ever met. I've never seen someone so at ease soloing hard mixed terrain, yet at the same time so quiet and unassuming about it. He was a role model for the modern narcissistic climber; a real dirt bag who lived for the adventure but would never boast about it because it just wasn't in his nature to even think about boasting about climbing. He was a dreamer, a man who had a smile for every occasion and a passion for people as much as he did for climbing. I didn't know Marc as well as many people on this planet but from my time shooting him and capturing part of his life's story I was really struck by his character. I really enjoyed hanging out with Marc and our endless drives through the Canadian highways talking about everything under the sun. I remember telling him after driving out of The Ghost, that I was glad I'd spent all this time in a car with him talking otherwise I would have thought he was actually crazy having watched him solo the stuff he does. A hidden gem of a man, always flying way under the radar. I have so many fond memories of Marc and yet I only spent a few of weeks with him, but in those short few weeks I grew to respect a man ten years younger than me for the way he treated those around him and the way he engaged with the mountains. A legend in every single way.

15 Mar, 2018

Saddest news

15 Mar, 2018

Desperately sad news so sincere condolences to all of Marc and Ryan's friends, family and loved ones. 

15 Mar, 2018

I met Marc on the Ben Nevis day captured in the news item video 'Sioux Wall in a storm'. The weather really was as terrible as it looked (my partner's sack for instance was swept away in an avalanche) but Marc was in his element - after he'd finished Sioux Wall he went on a mini soloing quest nipping up and down different bits of the number three gully area. Even though he had no knowledge of what routes he might be on, he seemed completely at home just free-form climbing over grade V and VI ground... in a raging blizzard! It was at once remarkable and terrifying to witness - a real glimpse into his stratospheric levels of skill. When reports over the years had come through of his solos of Cerro Torre or the Emperor Face on Mount Robson - I was like everyone impressed, but it was difficult to comprehend what was really involved. Watching him soloing on the Ben was a real insight into just how good someone had to be to pull off all the amazing climbs he did.

As well as his climbing mastery, the way Marc approached that day left a real impression. Conditions were so horrible that I was really questioning why I'd bothered heading out. Marc's un-showy desire to make the most of the challenge, when most locals were tucked up inside, together with his light heartedness - an almost childlike sense of play - lifted the tone amongst all of us there. I stopped feeling sorry for myself and found myself joking and laughing along with him at the preposterous reality that you could be out making fun out of such terrible conditions. Thank you Marc for the lesson. 

19 Mar, 2018
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