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Excerpt: Marc-André Leclerc, Visionary Alpinist


By Bernadette McDonald

By the age of 25, he had already made his mark. Bernadette McDonald goes beyond his climbs to explore the motivations and ethos of one of the country’s most intrepid and prolific solo climbers.

Editor’s Note: This feature article had all but gone to the printer when we learned that Marc-André Leclerc and his partner Ryan Johnson had gone missing after climbing a new alpine route on the Mendenhall Towers near Juneau, Alaska, and were later presumed dead. With our print date fast approaching, we were faced with the decision of whether or not to run the piece, which features an interview with Marc commissioned and conducted back in June 2017. We decided to move it forward as a tribute to this extraordinary climbéer, and extend our gratitude to Bernadette McDonald for her assistance in revising the piece on such short notice. –M.W., March 2018

He was late for our meeting. As I sat waiting in the Maclab Bistro, I was amused by his text: “I’m here…struggling to find Maclab.” This outstanding climber, who had mentioned that he was going for a quick run before our meeting, now seemed lost on the Banff Centre campus. Eventually he arrived, his face beaming with an unforgettable smile, his tall, wiry frame pumping with energy, as if he had just run a marathon.

Later that evening, I noticed a posting by Marc on Facebook a link-up of two routes: EEOR’s Tail on the east end of Mt. Rundle and the Cheesmond Express on Ha Ling. He called it the Canmore Halfpipe and he had done it in three hours and twenty-five minutes, car to car. Pretty fast – actually, outrageously fast – but not quite fast enough to make our meeting on time. When I queried him the next day about his “run,” he laughed: “Quite frequently ‘running’ involves rock shoes and chalk for me. It’s just more fun that way!” 

A wunderkind of alpinism, Marc-André Leclerc quickly built a reputation for boldness, speed, skill and a level head. Born in Nanaimo, B.C., in 1992, Marc lived on Vancouver Island until the age of four, then grew up in Pitt Meadows and Agassiz. A middle child, he benefitted from parents who loved the outdoors. His father Serge introduced him to the world of water – both above and below – and his mother Michelle instilled in him a love of hiking. She also encouraged his interest in climbing. Hopeless at organized sports, Marc complained that he had little hand-eye coordination and was simply too short. Even after topping out at 188 centimetres, he moaned that all he gained was height: the hand-eye issue remained. But climbing! That was something else entirely. By the age of ten he was already climbing hard competitively, and romping up 3rd– and 4th-class peaks. “Climbing was the first thing I was good at,” he said. […]

→ Keep reading this piece in Volume 3 of the Canadian Rockies Annual.

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Bernadette McDonald has authored 11 books on mountain culture and mountaineering. Her work has received many awards, including the Banff Grand Prize and the Boardman Tasker Award, and has been published in 13 countries.

The views and opinions expressed in the articles on are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the editor, the editorial team or the publishers.

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