On May 23, 2014, 48-year-old Sharon Buis went on a solo-hike in the Mount Roberts area of Alaska, but she did not leave a note or tell anyone where she was exactly going.

She was due to meet a friend at 8.45 am on May 24 to go on a hike, but never showed up. Sharon was last seen at Alaska Marine Lines, a business in downtown Juneau near the Rock Dump, at 9.30 am on May 23, 2014, based on receipts troopers found in her car.

She vanished on that hike and no clues to her whereabouts have been found since.

Who was Sharon Buis?

Sharon Gay Buis had lived in Juneau, Alaska, since around 2004. She was a physical therapist with Juneau Physical Therapy out of its Valley location inside the Alaska Club. She was last at work on Thursday, May 22, 2014.

Sharon ran a personal business, in addition to her job as a physical therapist, and was shipping two orthopedic office chairs to customers using Alaska Marine Lines on May 23.

She was an experienced hiker and she had biked from Alaska to Canada, and just recently returned from an ice camping trip in Greenland. She was also an avid runner, played hockey and kayaked.

Sharon reported missing by Anne Johnson

Sharon was reported missing by her longtime hiking partner, Anne Johnson, who called the police after she missed a hike with the Juneau Alpine Club. They were supposed to hike to Hawthorne Peak at 9 am on May 24, but Buis didn’t turn up, and this was very unusual for her.

At the last sighting in downtown Juneau, Sharon was wearing bright-colored exercise clothing. She had a black cast on her left hand at the time.

She was 5’8, 135 pounds and had brown hair, blue eyes, had scars on her knee, left hand, neck, and shoulder, and tattoos on her upper left arm and shoulder. She also had an orthopedic screw implanted in her body.

The discovery of Sharon’s car

Anne had a bad feeling about her no-show and she left a wedding reception early to drive around the trailheads in the Juneau area to try to find Sharon’s car. On May 24, 2014, at around 9.30 pm, Anne found Sharon’s car at the Mount Roberts trailhead.

The search begins

The search for Buis began at about 1 am on Sunday, May 25. Juneau’s local search and rescue community coordinated by Alaska State Troopers involved Southeast Alaska Dogs, U.S. Coast Guard and the Alpine Club. Many friends and family scoured the Mount Juneau trail system looking for Sharon. The search and rescue command center was located in the Mt. Roberts Tramway restaurant.

On Monday, May 26, the search widened to encompass the backcountry, and then the next day, searchers scaled back the perimeter and combed back over Mount Roberts and Mount Juneau. On Wednesday, they focused on Mount Juneau and the lower, less-rugged end of the Mount Roberts trail.

The Coast Guard conducted a helicopter search Sunday evening with night vision and FLIR thermal imaging devices but didn’t come up with any leads. Another aerial search was done the next day for about three hours covering the Mt. Juneau ridgeline, Mt. Roberts ridgeline, Sheep Creek drainage, as well as Granite Creek Basin. These were areas where it was not safe for the ground searchers to cover the ravines or the snowfields. Snow conditions in these locations was deteriorating.

Searchers said “We’ve been all over those hillsides, and again assessing where it’s likely she has been. We have thoroughly searched that area, and then we’ve searched and double-searched areas outside of that, and then searched again areas that she could have gone but isn’t likely. Even those areas have been double-checked.”

Dogs showed interest, but not necessarily alerted to scent on the trail above Mt. Roberts Tram on Sunday, May 25. On Tuesday morning, a different search and rescue dog detected her scent closer to the Mt. Roberts trailhead near the parking lot on Basin Road.

Sharon owned a handheld emergency activation device with GPS but unfortunately, it was found at her home. Her overnight backpack was also found in her house. Her cellphone was not found and the cell phone company wasn’t able to identify the phone’s location indicating it was probably turned off.

The Alaska State Troopers finally suspended the search for Sharon after four days of combing the Mount Juneau and Mount Roberts trail system. Too early in the view of many friends and family.

According to Juneau Police Department detective Nick Garza, a lead came in from someone who was hiking on July 6, 2014. “He was in an area down in the Glory Hole (located at the end of the Perseverance Trail system). He’d come across a bear down there and he was wondering if the bear was down there looking for something to eat or had come across something. And on his way back up, he just caught a foul odor. Maybe something decaying or something like that,” says Garza.

After discussions with Alaska State Troopers and Juneau Mountain Rescue, a small search group was sent out a few days after the lead came in. But the searchers found nothing.

Garza said he had searched Buis’s home several times and found nothing of note. He said Juneau Police Department still has no reason to suspect foul play but isn’t closing the door on any possibility.

In August 2014, a local man with experience exploring Juneau’s old mining shafts, Brian Weed, led a small team to search for Sharon inside abandoned mine shafts on the back of Mount Roberts.

Despite the extensive search of the area, no clues or remains turned up and Sharon was never seen again. She had vanished.

What happened to Sharon Buis?

  • Misadventure – did she get lost, stumble and become injured? After such a thorough search and several years after the disappearance, it seems surprising that no remains have been located, but there are inaccessible areas that have not been thoroughly searched by ground searchers
  • Animal Attack – no evidence of an animal attack was found by the searchers
  • Foul play – Sharon’s vehicle was found at the trailhead so she evidently arrived. Was she abducted by someone on the trail or snatched from the car park at the Mount Roberts Trailhead?

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