Scent of missing hiker found on trail but no cell phone trace

Volunteers are getting briefed Wednesday morning at Juneau Mountain Rescue for the fourth day of searching for missing hiker 48-year-old Sharon Buis. Tuesday’s efforts resulted in no new leads.

Buis has been missing since Saturday. When she didn’t show up for a planned group hike Saturday morning, a friend reported her missing that evening.

Alaska State Troopers say Southeast Alaska Dogs Organized for Ground Search, or SEADOGS, have detected the scent of Sharon Buis on the Mt. Roberts trail, where teams have been searching.

Her scent was first detected on the trail above Mt. Roberts Tram Sunday. Tuesday morning, a different search and rescue dog detected her scent closer to the Mt. Roberts trailhead near the parking lot on Basin Road. Buis’s black Honda Civic was located there Saturday morning by a friend.

Trooper Sgt. Timothy Birt says these are good leads and confirms the search team is on the right track, but a lot more information is still needed.

“We don’t have a lot of clues. Right now we’re doing area based searches of the trail corridor and other routes along the ridgelines and hills here. We haven’t found any clues to go off of, to base our searches on,” Birt says.

Buis was first reported missing 10:30 Saturday evening and the search effort started a few hours later around 1 a.m. Sunday morning.

Ground teams have repeatedly hiked the trails of Mt. Juneau, Perseverance, Granite Creek, and Mt. Roberts, along with side trails, ridgelines and basins. State Troopers are leading the effort with assistance from Juneau Mountain Rescue, SEADOGS, Juneau Alpine Club, and the U.S. Coast Guard.

The search has been confined to where Buis might go for a day hike. Birt says there’s no indication that she went on anything longer since her overnight backpack was found in her house and she had a hike scheduled the following morning with the Juneau Alpine Club to Hawthorne Peak.

Troopers haven’t found Buis’s cell phone. Birt says the cell phone company hasn’t been able to identify the phone’s location indicating it could be turned off.

The Coast Guard conducted a helicopter search Sunday evening with night vision and thermal imaging devices, but didn’t come up with any leads. Birt says troopers conducted another aerial search for about three hours Monday and have exhausted the areas to cover by helicopter.

“We covered the Mt. Juneau ridgeline, Mt. Roberts ridgeline, Sheep Creek drainage, as well as Granite Creek Basin, areas where it’s not safe for the ground searchers to cover the ravines or the snow fields,” Birt says. “Snow conditions up high are deteriorating and the ravines are deteriorating and there’s a real safety issue and concern up there.”

The search and rescue command center is located in the Mt. Roberts Tramway restaurant. James Dooley is with Juneau Mountain Rescue.

“We’re up here because it gives us a better line of sight for our radios with our search teams out in the field as well as just kind of puts us closer to the incident. It’s also a convenient jumping off point for our search teams because our search is kind of centered in this area right now,” Dooley says Tuesday.

Two teams were deployed by helicopter to Mt. Juneau and the Gastineau Peak area early Tuesday morning, while the rest of the roughly 20 searchers hiked up from the tram or from the Mt. Roberts trailhead.

Ground searchers work in teams of two or three.

“In search and rescue you don’t necessarily look for the person – I mean that would be great – but you look for clues. Looking for anything and everything that might be related or not related but you just want to document it. You know shoe tracks, wrappers, pieces of her property or things that can be tied back to her, just anything that might give us some clue or some bit of information,” Dooley says.

Buis was last seen Friday morning between 9:30 and 10 a.m. at Alaska Marine Lines.

“The last person that we know saw her on Friday said she was wearing bright colored exercise clothing, and it seems fairly consistent as to what her friends say she usually hikes in and she currently has a black cast on her left hand and is described as very active, very fit,” Dooley says.

Buis has lived in Juneau for about ten years. She’s a physical therapist with Juneau Physical Therapy out of its Valley location inside the Alaska Club. Buis was last at work on Thursday, May 22.

Besides being an experienced hiker, Buis also plays hockey, kayaks, and runs.

Troopers are in contact with her family in Ontario, Canada.

Sgt. Birt reminds hikers to carry a form of communication and wear bright clothing.

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Search underway for missing hiker

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