Missing man traveled through Summit County eight days ago
SUMMIT COUNTY – Family members are combing the mountains northeast of Steamboat Springs looking for a man who has been missing since Nov. 24.
Johann Clary, 41 and a prominent Denver-area oral surgeon, left home for a one-day backcountry jaunt near Walden. He passed through Dillon and Silverthorne on his way there, and with the exception of four phone calls he made to his fiance, Joan Qualls, no one has heard from him since.
“This is totally not like him,” she said from the couple’s new home in Golden. “It’s normal for him to go off and do his own thing. What’s not normal … he calls me, like, 87 times a day like I have nothing to do. And all of a sudden, nothing.”
Although Qualls and other family members didn’t know where Clary planned to snowshoe or ski, they were able to obtain cell phone records that indicated the last call he made was transmitted through a cell tower near Sentinel Peak 12 miles north of Walden Sunday night.
During that call, Qualls said, Clary said his car’s clutch was burning out and he planned to stay the night in his car before heading out the next morning. In a previous call, Clary kept saying it was “too cold,” and that he loved Qualls. No one knows where he was parked when he made the call.
Qualls offered to come up to the High Country to get him, but Clary said she wouldn’t be able to find his car and she’d probably get lost.
Qualls and family friend Jim Miller, who with his son and six others spent last week distributing fliers and searching the land, said that while Clary is an adventurer and experienced backcountry recreationist, the likelihood of him taking off or committing suicide is small.
Clary made six calls that Sunday, four to Qualls and two to his office, where he was scheduled to operate on two patients Tuesday. He’d promised his 6-year-old son he’d spend time with him on Thanksgiving. He and Qualls bought a house together a month ago. He’s in negotiations with another oral surgeon to purchase half the practice. He’d promised Qualls’ son to help him move to Fort Collins to go to school.
On the other hand, Clary is always up for a challenge, Miller and Qualls agreed. At 18, he was a dive master, and was captain of a sailing vessel in the Caribbean. He competed in the America’s Cup. He studied art in Paris, architecture in Rome.
“He’s a very focused individual,” Miller said. “He’s not one to fly. But he would be the guy at the top of some pass at 14,000 feet and take his Subaru to 12,500. That’s what we’re most concerned about. There’s a lot of things you can conjure up. It’s very unsettling.
“However, this guy is about as resourceful as they come,” Miller continued. “He has great survival skills. If he’s physically able to live, I think there’s a 90 percent chance he’d make it.”
The biggest hurdle the family faces is finding his 2000 silver Subaru. Until someone finds it – and family members agree the car could be anywhere – a full-scale search and rescue operation can’t take place.
“It’s not inconceivable he’s blown out his knee and is holed up someplace waiting for us to find him,” Qualls said. “He had Monday off. He might have gone skiing Monday.”
Clary’s family has hired a helicopter to look for the car, but they haven’t received any useful information. Search teams on the ground have checked all trailheads, to no avail.
“We need that vehicle,” Miller said. “If the helicopter finds the vehicle, we could call in two to three helicopters to search. If we found that car, they’d be all over it.”
“If we don’t find the car, they won’t do a search and rescue,” Qualls said. “And how much longer can a person last?”
There have been conflicting reports about the amount of snowfall in the area or if there have been any avalanches.
“It’s been too long,” Qualls said. “We’re scared out of our minds.”
Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Johann Clary, 41
? Driving a 2000 silver Subaru, Colorado license plate ECU 4018.
? Call Douglas Moore, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, at (303) 271-0211.
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