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Search and rescue officials are looking for two experienced climbers who are overdue to return from a climbing trip in Juneau.
George "Ryan" Johnson, a 34-year-old Juneau man, and Marc-Andre Leclerc of British Columbia were dropped off near the Mendenhall Towers on Juneau's Mendenhall Ice Field on Sunday, Alaska State Troopers said in a written statement.
The two men last communicated with family and friends Monday after climbing to the top of the towers. They had planned to return to Juneau via the West Mendenhall Glacier Trail by Wednesday evening.
Troopers say they found gear that the men were supposed to use to ski out. "We know they climbed to the top … it appears they didn't make it back down to the gear they didn't need for climbing," troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters wrote in an email.
Leclerc — a renowned climber profiled in Climbing Magazine in September — posted a photo of their climb to Instagram on Monday.
On Wednesday, a "significant snow storm" swept through the Juneau area, troopers said.
Edward Liske, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Juneau, said that reports of snowfall ranged between 2 and 6.7 inches Wednesday. At the top of Eaglecrest Ski Area, the highest observation point in the area with data available at 2,600 feet, 4.3 inches of snow fell, Liske said.
Neither of the missing men is reported to have a satellite phone or emergency beacon, troopers said.
The U.S. Coast Guard assisted in the search Thursday. An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter was diverted from patrol around 1:30 p.m., said Lt. Brian Dykens, spokesman with the Coast Guard 17th District in Juneau.
A second MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter flew from Air Station Sitka to Juneau around 3 p.m., Dykens said. The crew was planning to refuel in Juneau and assess weather conditions before attempting a search.
But by early evening, both helicopters ended their search. One had a mechanical issue. The other was grounded by bad weather around 5 p.m., Dykens said.
Dykens said crews were waiting for a good weather window with hopes of continuing the search before nightfall. The Coast Guard will reassess search efforts Friday morning.
Juneau Mountain Rescue was also assisting in the search, troopers said.