On their third day looking for a hiker believed to be missing since Friday, searchers combed back over Mount Roberts where the woman’s car was located at the trailhead.
Two TEMSCO helicopters carrying search teams lifted off from Juneau International Airport early Tuesday morning after a briefing inside the TEMSCO building. One helicopter headed for Mount Roberts, the other for Mount Juneau.
“They will be inserted with the helicopter into the high alpine areas,” Alaska State Trooper Sgt. Tim Birt told the Empire in an interview.
More than 50 searchers — a mix of Juneau Mountain Rescue members, Southeast Alaska Dogs Organized for Ground Search, the Alpine Club, and friends and family — have been looking for Sharon Buis since early Sunday morning. The 48-year-old Juneau resident was reported missing Saturday night.
The number of searchers dwindled to about 12 people by Tuesday morning. Most of those in the search party are volunteers and had to go back to work after the Memorial Day holiday on Monday.
“We had a great turnout the last two days,” Birt said, noting troopers are not actively requesting people in the community to join the search. “So today, third day into a search, typically we have people who have obligations — work and family — and exhaustion figures into it, too.”
After the initial search Sunday, searchers widened their perimeter Monday to cover the entire Mount Juneau trail system. They covered trails on Mount Juneau to the backside of Mount Roberts and out to Sheep Creek and Granite Creek Trail.
They scaled back the search perimeter Tuesday and looked more thoroughly on Mount Roberts, Birt said.
“This is our third day, so there are a lot of areas that have already been covered,” he said.
While the alpine team on Mount Roberts worked their way down the mountain, another ground search team started from the Mount Roberts Tramway and worked their way up.
Buis did not leave a note or tell anyone where she was going or when she would return. Troopers said her last known location was at Alaska Marine Lines near the Rock Dump at 9:30 a.m. Friday, based on a receipt they found.
Since it’s unknown what supplies she was carrying when she went out, or if she’s sustained any injuries, it’s impossible to gauge her chances of survival. Her friends described her as an experienced hiker who likes to travel light and often goes out alone. She just returned from an ice camping trip in Greenland last month, although with an injured wrist. Other than that, she’s in good physical condition, SEADOGS said in a flier advertising Buis as missing.
“If she’s out there with a twisted or broken ankle, a lot of different variables can come into play, like her will to live, her determination to survive,” Birt said. “If she fell off of a big dramatic face-cliff and has extreme injuries, there’s a lot of different factors. He added, “We don’t know what her situation is, so we’re going out there hoping for the best. We just want to find her.”
Troopers are asking Juneau residents out on the trails in Juneau to keep their eyes open for Buis, who is described as 5’7” and 135 pounds with brown hair and blue eyes. For those interested in joining the search party, contact troopers at 465-4000 and they will dole out assignments based on ability, skill level and needs.
Bruce Bowler, the leader of SEADOGS, reminded residents out on the trails looking for Sharon to tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back; charge a cell phone and take it along; dress in layers and bright colors; and carry rain gear, dry socks, a jacket and signals.
“A Space Blanket is cheap, light, and may just save someone’s life,” he said in an email to the Empire.
Troopers said they received at least five tips from Juneau residents in the past two days about possible sightings, but none panned out.
“At this point, nothing has panned out, but we are following up on those and we appreciate the community supporting us like that,” Birt said.
Buis is originally from Ontario, Canada. Her family has been notified of the search effort.
She has been a physical therapist at Juneau Physical Therapy since 2005, according to the company’s website. Her bio lists “hiking, kayaking and running” as her favorite activities.
The TEMSCO helicopters took off Tuesday amid grey skies and clouds forming above the mountaintops, a change in the sunny weather that lasted all weekend.
“If we lose visibilty in the alpine, that’s going to have a significant impact,” on the search, Birt said. “If it rains, it that’s going to make things more hazardous for our searchers on the slippery slopes. So it’s just something we have to be prepared for.”
• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.