Ryan Johnson (1983 - 2018)

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Family and friends will celebrate the life of accomplished Juneau mountaineer and climber Ryan Johnson (34) April 8th at 2pm at the JACC followed by a wake at the Twisted Fish.

His life was cut short on March 5, on the descent following the first documented climb of the north face of the main tower in the Mendenhall Towers.

Local ice climbing routes as well as world-class rock climbs bear Ryan's name. "To date, no one has been more instrumental in the development of new routes around Juneau," Clint Helander wrote in the Alpinist magazine.

Growing up in Juneau, Ryan gravitated toward the mountains and the ice of the Mendenhall Glacier. He was strong and slightly built, with engaging eyes and a first impression that could range from GQ style to vagabond, depending on where and when you met him. "Ryan did not step to the beat of a different drummer, he was the drummer in his life," mother Ruth Johnson said.

As a young man, he climbed in Yosemite, the Canadian Rockies, the Desert Southwest and the Cascades becoming increasingly skilled. In 2005 he and partner Stefan Ricci made a 51-hour ascent of the Cassin Ridge on Denali, with a round trip of 84 hours from base camp to base camp. He went on expeditions to Kyzyl Asker in Kyrgyzstan and the Himalayas.

"There is a moment early in the morning," Ryan wrote recently, "where I've found myself high on a snow-covered ridge having just pulled over the top of a face or skinning to a fresh line. I am with a good friend and there is less ahead than there is behind and a new day is dawning. The air is filled with potential energy; who knows what the day has in store? This is my favorite moment in life."

George Ryan Johnson was born in Juneau April 29, 1983, a beautiful spring day. He was the youngest of Ruth and Steve Johnson's three sons. He spent early childhood in tiny Meyers Chuck surrounded by the forest and sea, where his parents operated a general store and he developed an independent and adventurous spirit. His family returned to Juneau in 1990.

Ryan was on the swim team until he was 17, and spent his senior year as an exchange student in Finland. He graduated from Juneau Douglas High School in 2002. He attended the University of Montana and the University of Alaska, but the mountains were his favorite classroom. He devoted most of his free time and resources to rock and ice climbing, traveling to the Himalayas when he was just 21.

In 2008 he won the Muggs Stump alpine climbing award given annually to climbers that exemplify fast, light. and clean tactics. In 2018 he received the American Alpine Club Cutting Edge Grant for a climb that would have begun in April on the 7,200-foot face of Mt. Hayes.

When his son Milo Timothy Johnson was born in 2015, Ryan told his parents that being a father was the only experience he'd had that "lived up to the hype." He adored Milo and his new role as a father. Milo's mother, Ryan's dear friend and former partner, is Magy Elliott.

Fellow climber Samuel Johnson (no relation) said Ryan was a great climbing partner, and a thoughtful, caring friend. "He was always there for me when it counted, whether it be to shield me from falling ice, suffer together through interminable open bivies, as my best man, or as a coach through some of the tough decisions of early fatherhood," he wrote in a tribute to Ryan in Ice and Rock magazine.

Ryan also worked in mining and construction, most recently for Dawson Construction and Peak Construction in Juneau. In 2016 he opened Tongass Fitness, a private gym.

He was preceded in death by grandparents Elizabeth Shackelford; G. Verne and Claire Johnson. He is survived by his son Milo Timothy Johnson, parents, Steve and Ruth Johnson, brothers Matthew Subotnick and Joshua Johnson, grandfather Bill Shackelford; numerous aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, and nephews, and many friends in Juneau and the climbing community.

Donations to fund the care and education for Milo may be made at First National Bank account: Ruth Johnson FBO Milo Johnson or at: https://www.gofundme.com/ryanandmilo
Published in The Juneau Empire from Mar. 31 to Apr. 30, 2018