John Rosholt has been missing since mid January. He left Scottsdale for a trip to Vegas and has not turned up. Any information about John would be appreciated, there is a dedicated group of his friends keeping a thread about John on RC.com.
Well, was he prone to free soloing? Have they located his car yet? If not, what kind of car and plates does he have? Does he gamble at the Casinos? Does he get involved with hookers and blow? Did he owe money? Is he medicated for anything? Is there a chance that mis-manageing his meds could lead to a misdirected "adventure"? Does he have any reason to come to the PNW?
A sack of apples and a Hammer are all you need
Loc: Spokane WA USA
I climbed whith John a couple of days in Red Rocks back in the late 90's. He's the gambler because he made (I assume he still does) his living playing texas hold em up and down the west coast (including canada) with the sunshine so he could climb all the time. Cool gig if you have the cajones. LanceG is justified in searchin for this guy on this site cause maybe he's been around here lately. Get it?
Wow, hikers self promoting over a missing person report! Real deal folks even grown up's get gone. I ran the 48 states for over 10 years and constantly saw on bulltetin boards missing person flyers on a daily basis. SHIT Happens. So lets help out if we can, ya never know.
And a side note, if you are found I as well play hold em and am always up for a $1,000 minnimum game. 6 person if we can hook this fella up??
--------------------- OK now we are here, where are we
I put what information I had out there. This is what is known: John Roshalt was living in Scottsdale AZ. He spent his free time developing new routes in the surrounding area.
In the first part of Jan, John left for what appeared to be a short trip to Vegas. Phone records and ATM transactions stopped on the 19th of that month.
The thing about John is he is smart, internet poker and stock day trading were enough to let him get by. There is a mystery at the heart of this, and the main thing I keep telling myself is: I don't know anything.
Scottsdale climber has been missing since Christmas
By Irene Hsiao, Tribune
The Christmas cards remain on the mantle in the living room. The Christmas tree is still in front of the fireplace. All of 48-year-old John Rosholt’s belongings — including his climbing gear, computer and bicycle — are inside his Scottsdale home.
Jane Rosholt Watkins last spoke to her younger brother, who is well-known in the rock-climbing community, when he called to thank her for a Christmas present about 8 p.m. Dec. 27 before he left for Las Vegas.
At 9:42 p.m., he e-mailed his other sister, Jill Rosholt, telling her he had recently gone to a Phoenix Suns game and he hadn’t received her present yet. He said that was OK because it would be Christmas all over again when he did get it. And that was it.
John Rosholt has been missing ever since.
"John’s a conservative, responsible guy. There’s no way he would just walk away," said Darin Holt, a fellow rock climber and former roommate of John Rosholt’s.
Las Vegas Metropolitan Police found his Toyota 4Runner in late April in the parking lot of the Silverton Casino.
The department began handling the case last week, said Las Vegas police Sgt. Chris Jones.
Police do not know if he walked away or if there was foul play, Jones said.
Watkins reported her brother missing in late February to Scottsdale police after she didn’t hear from him when she called about her daughter’s wedding, she said. He had planned to attend.
Although John Rosholt would frequently be gone for a few months at time, it was unlike him not to respond, Watkins said.
Scottsdale police said his financial records were not tampered with and foul play was not suspected in his disappearance at the time, said Scottsdale detective Sam Bailey.
John Rosholt rock climbed regularly.
He played poker and invested in the stock market to support himself, Watkins said.
A message displayed at www.rockclimbing.com says: "Has anyone seen John Rosholt (gambler) recently?"
Holt said John Rosholt, who had an eclectic group of friends, never contacted any of his rock-climbing buddies in the Las Vegas area.
He might have gone hiking in the area instead because of some minor injuries he had suffered, Holt said.
Anyone who has information is asked to call Las Vegas police at (702) 229-5678.
When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading. H. Youngman
I had a friend that used to gamble for a living and he was very smart, like genious smart. One day, he was gone. Everyone thought he disappeared off the face of the Earth. Two years laters, he called back like he was never gone. We found out my friend was schizophrenic(sp?). He took off and hid in a van for two years because he thought the government was following him. We had no clue prior to his dissappearance. He just up and left his friends and family, all the things he loved and stayed hidden. Point is, maybe this is a simular situation. However, it never hurts to find out. We should keep an eye out at the crags. Good luck.
After Everett Ruess vanished in Utah's wilds in 1934, relatives tried to retrace his steps. But a few overheard words are what have now led to his bones. By Kevin Vaughan The Denver Post Posted: 05/01/2009 12:30:00 AM MDT Updated: 05/01/2009 08:46:05 AM MDT
Archaeologist Ron Maldonado examines the crevice in the Comb Ridge area of southeastern Utah that held Everett Ruess' bones, above. The bones were from a man 19 to 22 years old who was roughly 5-feet-8, matching Ruess' age and size. (National Geographic Adventure magazine )
As the man's eyes wandered across the red-rock country of southeastern Utah, he first saw a weather-beaten saddle jammed in a canyon wall crevice and then, behind it, bleached bones sticking out from the earth — the keys to unlocking one of the West's enduring mysteries.
That discovery, made more than a year ago, came full circle Thursday with the announcement that the bones belong to Everett Ruess, a poet and painter, writer and thinker who vanished near the Four Corners area in 1934.
For 75 years, the answer to his disappearance at age 20 had been the stuff of speculation.
It might never have been solved but for a Navajo medicine man's admonition, a grandfather's story of long-ago death, a curious writer and contemporary forensic-science work conducted at the University of Colorado.
Maybe, some posited, he had slipped while climbing a canyon or met his end at the fangs of a rattlesnake. Maybe he'd been murdered.
Ruess died, not long after he was last seen, in a remote wash miles from anywhere.
"The family is deeply, deeply appreciative of everything that came together to solve the mystery," his niece, Michele Ruess, said Thursday during a conference call announcing that work by CU anthropologists and DNA experts had identified the remains as those of the wandering intellectual.
Tale of Ute chase, clubbing
Born in Oakland, Ruess was just a boy when he began writing, and by the time he was 16 he was exploring the West, on a horse or a burro or on foot. He trekked through the Sequoia and Yosemite parks. He crisscrossed the canyon country of Colorado, Arizona, Utah and New Mexico.
He painted. He made woodcuts of the beautifully stark images of the landscapes he visited. And he wrote of his own restlessness and the land.
He scrawled "Nemo" on rocks, maybe because it was Latin for "no one," or maybe because it was the name of the main character in one of his favorite books, "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea."
Bones removed from the crevice by forensic anthropologists Dennis Van Gerven and Paul Sandberg. (Vaughn Hadenfeldt) was Christopher McCandless three generations before the subject of Jon Krakauer's "Into the Wild" wandered off in Alaska.
On Nov. 11, 1934, Ruess wrote a letter to his older brother, Waldo.
"As to when I revisit civilization, it will not be soon," it said, in part.
The next day, Ruess set out from Escalante, Utah, with his two burros, heading off on the Hole-in-the-Rock Trail. A week later, a sheepherder talked to him close to where the Escalante River emptied into the Colorado.
He was never seen again.
Daisy Johnson was a young woman in 1971 when she walked in on a conversation between her grandparents.
"Grandmother was getting after him, saying, 'You should have never, ever messed with that body,' " Johnson said. " 'You should have left him down there.' "
Daisy asked her grandfather, Aneth Nez, what they were talking about, and he told her the story of sitting on desolate Comb Ridge, of sometimes seeing a young white man riding a burro in the canyon below him.
He told her about the day he saw three Ute Indians chase down that young man, club him and leave him for dead, and how he later sneaked into the wash, where he picked up the bloodied body and carried it up the canyon, then buried it in a crevice.
Now her grandfather was sick. A medicine man blamed his cancer on what he had done with that corpse, and said he needed to return to it and take a lock of hair that could be used in a ceremony to cure him.
Nez had Johnson drive him out to Comb Ridge, and then set out on foot into the desert while she waited. Two hours later, he returned with a lock of hair. He lived another 10 years.
Bones, family's DNA a match
Uncle Everett was always a part of Michele Ruess' life. Paintings and prints hung on the walls. Books bulged with his writings. On a rock slab, her grandmother painted one of her uncle's favorite sayings: "What time is it? Time to live."
And her father, Waldo, spent his life trying to uncover the mystery of his brother's death. He went to Utah in 1964 to see whether any human remains had been found during work to build a dam, creating Lake Powell. He wrote to magazines imploring people with information to come forward.
Waldo Ruess died in 2007, still wondering what happened. He was 98.
In the spring of 2008, Daisy Johnson told her grandfather's story at a family gathering. Her brother, Denny Bellson, had never heard it before.
Bellson searched the Internet for disappearances in the Four Corners area and found stories about Ruess. He got a map of the Comb Ridge area and had his sister show him where she had taken their grandfather.
On May 25, 2008, Bellson drove to Comb Ridge. He parked and descended into Chinle Wash. In a slot in the chalky red rock, he saw the remains of a saddle. Bellson moved closer. There, behind the saddle, were bones.
"I looked around and I knew it was him," Bellson said.
Bellson took a friend to the site. That friend knew the Ruess story, and he knew David Roberts, a contributing editor at National Geographic Adventure magazine. Roberts had researched the Ruess mystery extensively in 1999 for a story.
Roberts approached CU anthropology professor Dennis Van Gerven, asking whether he would examine a jawbone discovered on Navajo land.
"I was actually not interested, but David persisted," Van Gerven said.
Van Gerven and doctoral student Paul Sandberg carefully exhumed the remains and determined they were those of a man between 19 and 22 who was roughly 5-feet 8-inches tall. All of that matched up with Ruess.
They photographed facial bones and superimposed them over pictures of Ruess. They matched .
Next, they turned to Ken Krauter, a CU biology professor, who directed the process of extracting DNA from a leg bone unearthed from the grave. They compared that to DNA obtained from Waldo Ruess' four children, and it matched exactly as one would expect between an uncle and his nieces and nephews. Krauter called it "an irrefutable case."
The scientific work and Nez's story answer many questions about Ruess. But they don't complete the tale.
There is no proof of how — or when — Ruess died, or how he ended up 60 miles from the place he was last seen. And there is no way to know who might have killed him.
Still, the discovery of his remains brought a measure of peace to his surviving family members.
"Even though it's very sad to imagine the manner in which he died, we're happy to know how it happened and where he's been resting all these years," Michele Ruess said, "and that there was such a man as Aneth Nez who cared for a fellow human being."
Her uncle's remains will be cremated, she said, and scattered in the Pacific Ocean near Santa Barbara, Calif. It's the same place where the ashes of Waldo and other family members have been scattered through the years.
It's the place where Everett Ruess will be one with the earth forever. "
Yes, the 75-year-old Everett Ruess story is an amazing one, and he was only very recently really found and positively identified. Billcoe, while this is a good version of the whole story available online, the original story including the fascinating research and first-hand finding is climber-author Dave Roberts', and appears in the current issue of Adventure. Unfortunately, the real, first-hand account does not appear in its entirity online, and is only readable presently in the printed mag. But Roberts' story is still worth it.
Regardless, this thread is about the missing climber John Rosholt. Four years later, still no word on him that I can find .
John's sister, Jane, posted this on Rockclimbing.com with a bunch of detailed info that tied up a lot of details, not why the car was left in the Casino though. I was wondering if that rough road and his vehicular condition might be the answer to that. Ie, he either hitched and walked to the route, or hopped a ride with someone to avoid screwing up his truck further. Interesting that both Everett Ruess and John were both identified by their jawbones.
"I wanted to send you a message that John Rosholt has been found. These are my personal thoughts of his disappearance.
It was a dramatic weekend as I received a call from the Clark County Coroner’s office on November 13, 2010 that some human remains had been found and they called to ask me some questions about John. A rock climbing site, supertopo, also contacted me telling me police were trying to contact John’s sister, Jane.
I was very hopeful upon the receiving the call from the Clark County Coroner that perhaps the bones recovered could be John’s, then after several calls to the coroner, found that area climbers had called the LVMPD with a tip that perhaps the bones were John, the 5 year missing climber. I had followed the postings on supertopo forwarded by a climber friend, Russ Walling, as well as the stories featured on the Las Vegas news channels and to my dismay heard that these bones were non-human, so my hopes had dashed. I spoke with my Las Vegas Missing Persons Detective, Det. Juarez on Sunday night, Nov. 14, and he said there was a partial jawbone with 3 teeth recovered and he would be bringing John’s dental records to the coroner. I heard nothing for 2 days but kept watching the climbing sites and followed along. It is so interesting to read the random stories they wrote in about John. I will forward these and many links to you.
I received a call from the coroner late Wednesday evening, November 17, 2010: the remains ARE John Rosholt, the dental records were a conclusive match. WOW. I am still in shock. His name was released to the media on Thursday 11/18/10. I asked again about the exact location of the remains and he said “on a rock ledge on Prince of Darkness” in Black Velvet Canyon, Red Rock Conservation Area. He explained that the confusion regarding the human and non-human remains is that there were 2 search and rescue recoveries within 8 hours in the area, one on the rock ledge and the other in the valley (those in the valley were non-human). I went from 80% hopeful with the first call from the Coroner, to 50% after police dispatch told me I was contacted because climbers had called in the tip to contact me rather than hard evidence, (climbers internet inquiry… “anyone have contact information for John’s sister Jane” so my phone number was given to police by climbers), then my hopes went down to 20% when bones were not human. When I called our sister, Jill, who lives in the Canary Islands, at midnight to tell her John had been found, she asked why I held onto a 20% chance of John when the remains were not human and I responded that I was holding tight onto any thread of hope.
John had called me on 12/27/04 to tell me that he was going on a New Years Trip to Las Vegas for 1 to 2 weeks to play some Poker and hike around. He left on 12/29/04 and the last time he was positively seen alive was an ATM photo on 1/19/05. He planned on a short trip, his Christmas present from Jill had not year arrived from the Canary Islands, so he e-mailed her the night before he left, that he would have another Christmas when he got home in January but he never returned back to Scottsdale.
I knew John had planned on doing some hiking during his Las Vegas New Years trip, as he had a sore shoulder. When I first heard from the coroner that bones were found in Black Velvet Canyon, then at Prince of Darkness, I had a feeling this was John, and googled Prince of Darkness/John Rosholt and the first thing that popped up was Texas Hold ‘Em, John Rosholt FA, meaning that John had the first ascent, established the route and named the climb. My thoughts were that these were his very familiar climbing rocks, he named the adjacent rock route and was one of the first to climb there back when area was established in the 1970’s– this could really be John! His friend told me in 2005 that if John were in Red Rock area, he would be in Black Velvet. The police did a helicopter search in May of 2005, but they focused on the main Red Rock area, not so much in the more remote Black Velvet Canyon. At least this is an appropriate ending to his story and he ended on His rocks and in an area he loved. His best friend said, “John was the ultimate gambler with his constant ‘calculated risk’. There is that ultimate adrenaline addiction whether it is poker or rock climbing.”
Your terminology was perfect Pete, as I believe he was scouting around, as he did when he was recovering from an injury, exploring for new routes or route improvements. Darin said he was searching for a better route for Texas Hold ‘Em, as many were slipping or falling at the top. Darin said this was a climb that he felt was a project he must complete. That is why when the coroner told me a body was found on a cliff on “Prince of Darkness” near “Texas Hold ‘Em” I knew somehow this body had to be John.
When I called Darin hours after hearing the news, he said after a long silence, “This is a good closing, a good ending. This was His Climb, His project on His own Rock… bottom line. He was a gambler. He was Las Vegas. When everyone said it was too dangerous to climb Red Rock area as most were used to granite of Yosemite or Eldorado, John helped develop Red Rock”. He said John’s scrambling in street shoes is like technical climbing to many, he was probably just “extreme hiking”. We believe this is what he was doing too, especially since he was wearing jeans and mending an injury. We thought he would be scouting on foot and exploring the area, as he told me he was going to be hiking around. We agree with Pet Takeda and Darin. Darin also said when he and John would get really good at climbing for the season, they would go to Black Velvet to climb Texas Hold ‘Em 5.11c after climbing Prince of Darkness 5.10c to warm up and it’s about a 10 minute hike between the 2 routes. He said John was determined to find a safer route to the top, searching to find a route improvement, apparently John felt this was a climb that must be completed. “That stubborn streak and methodical thoroughness would have placed him there to complete his project”. With John’s 200-300 first ascents (I asked him how many first ascents he had and he said “I don’t know, a lot” and I asked again, really how many? and he reluctantly said “I don’t know 2 or 300 First Ascents” (I thought I had seen a listing of the FA’s on his profile of rockclimbing.com or somewhere, if anyone has one, I would love to have a copy). Texas Hold ‘Em is a climb that John was quite proud of and perhaps wanted this to be his signature climb. John’s house had nothing out of place when I arrived in May 2005 except for my Christmas letter with photo of the girls on the kitchen table and then two pieces of paper on his dresser of “Texas Hold Em 5.11b”, written on top, plotting three different top approach routes for the climb that he was apparently working on. Looking back, it is not surprising he was climbing there, perhaps this was a clue for me in case he did not return. I did not even know that Texas Hold ‘Em was located in Red Rock, and if it was a message or clue, I did not intercept it and I did not pick up on it, even if this was intended for me to know.
The Las Vegas Metro Police Department Search and Rescue use a book, the Red Rock Climbing Guide by Todd Swain, for their search and rescues and said there is a very good full-page photo of these Wall climbs and routes on page 360. I went downstairs to look through John’s books and found his copy but he had the older 186 page First Edition guide printed in 1993, before many of these new climbs were even discovered, so I must check for a newer edition. I had not opened any of the boxes I had packed at this home the week of May 20, 2005, as it was just too sad, but at the request of Anita Roman, a Las Vegas news reporter, who was doing the story about the remains found and recovery, was hoping to add a few climbing photos. I went down to look through his climbing books and photographs, and this time did so with admiration rather than sadness. In his old Red Rock guidebook, he yellow highlighted his climbs he had done and wrote “SOLO” over many of the climbs where he had done solo climbs; a most notable Solo climb was Epinephrine 5.9, that was next to Texas Hold ‘Em. I was thinking, how did he live this long looking at some of his photographs? I guess I will have to go buy the new book so I can see and appreciate the majesty of this Black Velvet Rock Wall that he thoroughly enjoyed. I looked up “mountainproject – black velvet canyon” and found the most beautiful photographs of the area posted there.
John’s remains were found by 2 German climbers that had taken a higher than usual route that was not often used by climbers as they estimate about a dozen per week climb Prince of Darkness and still he had not been found for at least 5 1/2 years. There was no backpack and no climbing gear. He was climbing in jeans and these somewhat protected the few remaining bones. John had climbed this rock face many times and the question from everyone has been, where is the climbing equipment, but there was none. The Las Vegas Metro Police Department have determined that he was climbing solo, meaning he was not using ropes and he was climbing alone. It was first thought by S&R that this was not possible as the route was too difficult without gear, but they did some research on John Rosholt’s climbing history and Det. Juarez had sent them a copy of the article “Vanished – Without A Trace” by Pete Takeda from Rock and Ice 2005. Search and Rescue learned about John’s 5.13c climbs in Oak Creek of Red Rock and Crack Climbs in Moab, thus they determined that due to his very expert ability level, he was indeed climbing without a rope or equipment, saying “a 5.10 climb for most climbers would be compared to a 5.6 level for John”. They said Pete’s article was extremely valuable and helpful to them in solving this mystery of the remains on the rock ledge so high up on the mountain. (Thank you Pete!) Most feel he had been exploring for new routes in the vicinity of Texas Hold ‘Em. There are so many remaining questions though: what day did he make this climb?, did he have a pack?, was he wearing a jacket?, did he have binoculars?, did he have a notepad?, and most importantly… we have all wondered about his shoes – what type of shoes: street shoes, scrambling shoes or rock climbing shoes? Whichever shoes he had been wearing would be a huge clue, but the shoes were long gone, probably due to vultures, crows, small animals, high winds and down-pouring rains. There were no shoes found, but Phil said he would like to go searching for them below the 600’ cliff. On the rock ledge there was a long bone and a piece of arm wrapped in tattered jeans and a long sleeved t-shirt, part of a spine and mandible with 3 teeth that provided the dental confirmation. The authorities have ruled out foul play as the climb was too difficult and no one would have carried him there and or tossed him off the cliff that was over 600 feet down. They presumed that it was “an accident due to no fault of his own and probably a rock used as a handhold or foothold could have broken away”. We were also just told by an experienced climber, that the top portion of Prince of Darkness was much less stable with more loose rocks. Search and Rescue felt John was an avid climber and he knew the routes well but had an accident on this very remote part of the rock face, explaining why he had not been found. John was on a ledge above the normal route of this climb; John had taken the “High Road”.
We had all feared the seamy side of Las Vegas and the “Wrong Road” and all of these thoughts had come to mind: was he shot in the desert by guys on ATV’s?, were Casino thugs or mobsters after him?, did he win big and was robbed?, was he beat up and dumped down a mine shift?, did he have his hands broken because they felt he was counting cards a the poker table (he did have a photographic memory and one thinks of Paul Newman in movie, the Hustler)?, was it foul play at the Blue Diamond Truck Stop where the climbers who live in their cars would pay for a shower and there were the constant Big Rigs passing through?, did someone steal his 4Runner?, was he dirt bag climbing and living in the caves off Blue Diamond Road, eating tuna out of a can (as he often did anyway, just like his dad)?, was he murdered and thrown in a dumpster?, did he go into a fugue state, have a mental breakdown or amnesia?, did he hop a flight to Thailand with a fake passport?, or since he just had his Dockers laundered at Sparkle Cleaners, did he win a big Omaha or Texas Hold ‘Em game at the Mirage or Bellagio and move to a Polynesian Island (although I know he would have left me some kind of childhood clue, something only I would understand)?, or did he go into the big Poker game and lose everything?, could it have been Witness Protection” , Phil still likes to hold to that thought! Anne Trujillo, a friend and Denver News4 anchor probably had the best explanation in 2005, “Only God Knows”.
There are still so many mysteries regarding his disappearance, especially regarding the car. Did he carpool with someone, meeting them at the south end of Blue Diamond Road?, did he get a ride to the next intersection, where many climbers leave a car and drive over to Black Velvet together?, did the car run?, was someone else using the car? We will probably never know… However, this does bring to mind another story I recalled; when John was 14, in 1970, he decided he wanted to do some real climbing, packed a backpack and headed west. Days later, my parents received a call from the Canadian Border Guard that John was caught trying to sneak into Canada, as he wanted to go climbing in the Bugaboos and do some “real rock climbing”; he had hitched hiked across the country and hopped rides from anyone who was heading in the direction of Squamish. My thoughts are that there must be someone who knows something out there, but the most logical answer to the car question is that he hopped a ride to Black Velvet.
This certainly is a very intriguing mystery, but at lease we have a conclusion. I DO think this would be an interesting book or movie. He could not have written a better Hollywood ending. There has been discussion regarding stories written about John after hearing the news of his death and perhaps a follow-up article to “Vanished – Without a Trace” by Pete Takeda that appeared in Rock and Ice magazine 2005 (also attached). I must say that I am quite impressed with the climbing community and the sense of concern for one another, I guess that is what happens when you trust your life to your climbing partner, you develop very close and special relationships. There have been many “John campfires stories” and fascinating tales being posted to a few climbing site forums. Special thanks to Russ Walling for keeping the supertopo forum going and keeping John’s presence on your Fishproducts web page during his disappearance. Thanks also to Curt Shannon for establishing the Rockclimbing.com – John Rosholt “This is Important” forum site, as this site was shared by hundreds of climbers around the world since March 2005 after he disappeared. I also thank Brian Jonas of Pagan Mountaineering in Moab, who began the grapevine calls to the climbers that John was missing. He knew John well and had climbed with him on the East Coast. He gave me a few Las Vegas phone numbers of Flying Brian McCrae and some Calico climbers who I called about an hour later…but the word was already out and I would guess that within a few hours over 100 climbers knew John was missing!
My search began after Marea DeNice Moseley, John’s next door neighbor, called me to say there was 6 weeks of mail in John’s mailbox, she had found my name via return addresses from Christmas Thank You notes the girls and I had written to John. I pondered how a search should begin and recalled his email address was “mondo…” and one time I had asked him why Mondo: He replied, “Mondo’s café in Moab! Every climber in the world know Mondo’s café!”, so I called Mondo’s café and they had me call Pagan Mountaineering next door. And that is where the search for John began. Talk about one tight knit community who care so much for one another – there are doctors and lawyers to the grungiest of grungy climbers. John’s best friends worked in a variety of careers: “my friend Mike” the real estate investor and owner of a rock gym driving a Mercedes AMG, a forensic computer specialist, semi-conductor specialist, computer experts, day traders, poker players, geophysicists, authors, resoling rock climbing shoes, engineers, fabricators of climbing equipment, lots of climbing shop owners, warehouse workers and 1000’s of other professions down to the dreadlock climbers still living in their 1970’s van. All of these friends consider their climbing partners, whomever they might be, as part of the climbing community and family anywhere throughout the world. So many are saying this could certainly be an interesting CSI-Las Vegas, Bones or Tru TV. One climber back in 2005 wrote on the rockclimbing.com forum site that “if John were a doe-eyed blond, he surely would have been on Greta VanSustern” on Fox News. What makes this Search so much more widespread was the use of the internet climbing sites where friends, friends of friends and climbers who had only heard of John, were sending in comments and ideas regarding the disappearance. Maybe it is time to reconsider talking to 48 Hours Mystery as they were interested in the possibility of a feature in late 2005 but I was not ready as the story had no ending, but perhaps now since the body has been found, yet there is still plenty of mystery.
I was ready to email this message out and push send, then decided… “but wait there is more”……… I was thinking that John’s life showed signs of his love for the outdoors early on, in about 6th grade Johnny moved outside for the summer spending his nights in a little USGS tent in the backyard and only came back inside when it got too cold in the fall. Similar situation 20 years later when he told me to send his mail to: General Delivery, Squamish, BC until it got cold and then he’d head south to Heuco, and have me send it there. John was quite a hit with his Kindergarten teacher as he could recite the Presidents of the United States in order and backwards but that this was probably the highlight of his academic experiences; he was a bit bored in school and later sometimes ditched to go climb. He was good at baseball and Dad was the coach, he collected baseball cards with Dirk Harman and John memorized every statistic on every player and always asked me to buy him bubble gum baseball cards. Dental Forensics showed the exact striations on the 3 molars as well as the his fillings via dental records, those were probably because he loved sugar when growing up but then got fanatical about his Zone or whichever diet and I recall when he decided his fat level was a little low, so added 3 cashew nuts a day to his meal plan. He was a bit wild and crazy during the 1970’s and 80’s, then had a transformation to a total health fanatic with totally healthy life style to the extreme during the past two decades. Our home in Lakewood, Colorado was very Middle America: mom was a housewife, dad was a nuclear chemical geo-physicist at the USGS Federal Center and the children were Jane, Jill and John. In 7th grade John would climb the telephone pole in the front yard of our house for hours everyday, especially showing off when my friends would come to visit, a few tried but none succeeded the climb to the top like he could. In the cold weather he’d be in the backyard, doing kick turns with his new skis making ski prints all over the backyard for hours; then there was his freshman year at Western State College in Gunnison when he broke the tips off 2 or maybe it was 3 sets of skis, jumping off the rocks at Crested Butte’s Paradise Bowl or Ruby Chief or at the Plunge at Telluride. Speaking of Telluride, he loved the Telluride Jazz festival and always met friends there, he also did some Telluride ice climbing but decided that ice climbers don’t tend to live very long as many of his ice climbing friends had died, so not much ice climbing anymore. I think it was the next year at college, when he came down with Rocky Mountain Tick Fever while climbing in Taylor Canyon and hospitalized in Gunnison for a week. He certainly had some legendary climbs in the Black Canyon during his college years in the late 1970’s. A climb he was quite proud of was the Black Canyon’s Painted Wall and his 5.12 Journey through Mirkwood in 1977. He would be telling our girls how he slept in his cocoon sleeping bag anchored to the rock in Yosemite or the Black Canyon and spent the night hanging on the side of the rock mountain- that certainly left a big impression on 3 young girls who weren’t even sure about sleeping bags in our fenced backyard. Whenever he would have ropes deemed unsafe, he would pass them on to Phil for him to use at the stained glass studio or to install projects from the scaffolding; we put these old ropes to good use and still do use them. John was a Cub Scout at South Lakewood Elementary School and his favorite project was learning how to tie all the knots, dad had dozens of foot-long pieces of rope around that Johnny would practice tying; who would have guessed what that skill would have lead to? John also had the opportunity in middle school, probably around 1968, to take an after school “Mountaineering” class from Lakewood teacher, Richard Pownall who was fresh off his 1963 American Mt. Everest Climb; this was an introduction to mountaineering, climbing and orienteering with an emphasis on safety, safety, safety. If John were to come to visit me while I was a student at CU, it wasn’t really to see me but to climb the university class buildings throughout the Boulder campus that were made of Lyons Sandstone. When Christmas presents would arrive during the past decade, our girls would always look forward to some kind of practical Christmas gift from John, usually different kinds of Mag-lights for them each year and a headlamp for Phil or climbing T-shirts that I suspect he might have won in Bouldering Competitions or from REI. We will miss going out to Dino’s or for Thai when he would come to visit, but never will forget his “healthy” protein/nut/trail mix concoction he ate while climbing and on the road. I bet a lot of his friends will recall going out to eat with him too, John always paid his own way but would probably never offer to pay for your dinner! Another story I recall regarding his thriftiness was when he went to Thailand/Nepal via Courier Plane as he acquired a place on the plane when they had a light cargo load, it was very cheap but he said he probably would not do that again! He was very self-sufficient and independent and kept his cards close to the vest. Most of his friends knew him so well, but did they really know him??? So much for the stories, they could go on forever, I had to get a piece of Red Vine licorice since red licorice helps me think better so I could remember some of these stories. As soon as I print this I will remember more!
He was most happy living in his truck, he had boxes and boxes of cassettes he would listen to while sitting in the middle the Maze in Canyonlands near Moab or the middle of nowhere, he really loved one we gave him by David Lanz titled “Desert Vision”; he could drive anywhere and preferred to camp on the free BLM land. He was especially proud of his new 1989 4Runner and he called me on New Years to tell me he bought a new toy. He had a big board that Phil gave him that he placed on the wheel-wells and a sponge mat for his bed; he had storage space below for a box of clothes, a box for food and 10 boxes of climbing gear, then of course there was his folding chair attached to the inside ceiling. Peder was right, he was much happier when he only owned one set of keys and his home was on wheels. He lived a life following his passion and you would never know where he would be, how long he would stay and when he might pop in for a visit. I do know that he was quite excited to be 50 though, as he was looking forward to the new age group so he could win all the climbing prizes.
John probably lived the life most people dream of and he lived out his dream. I do think of the decal on his 4Runner, “Climb Now, Work Later”, however, most of us need to work now and climb later!!. I was wondering though, when does rock climbing go from a passion to an obsession??? Amanda gave me a book last month just before John was found: LIVE WHAT YOU LOVE: notes from an unusual life …. That could have been the title of John’s biography. I should read the book first but I bet John’s story is even more unusual and interesting.
These were our thoughts on the day following the news that John had being found. Amanda, our youngest daughter’s comment about Johnny was, “Bittersweet” “Now there is an ending to the Book”. Kitt, our middle daughter’s first thought was of Curt Kobain, “It is better to burn out than fade away”. Sally, our oldest daughter, said, “It is sad and hard to know that he is really gone but closure is so important. It is also so important to grieve.” Her little 2 1/2 year old son, John, would say “all done”. Our sister, Jill, said she knew he had “passed over” as he had communicated with her from the other side, one day telling her she needed a better filing system at her home in the Canary Islands. Jill had talked to many psychics around the world about John and she was quite impressed with and had many visits with one from England who said that “John’s life ended in his favorite place”. Paul said when asked what happened to him, John said “what goes around, comes around”. She said Dad and John are helping her out by “downloading information into her brain so she can get her head around quantum physics” as she is working on channeling, opening up vortexes and in the Fifth Dimension. Dad’s USGS nuclear geologists thought after he died, he’d be working on splitting the atom or something extraordinary (a few of Dad’s abstracts are also attached). Darin said, “This is a good closing, a good ending. This was His Climb, His Project and he was working on His Rock… bottom line. He was a gambler. He was Las Vegas”. Pete Takeda said, “This is great closure and a bittersweet end to the saga. I take comfort from knowing he passed in the rocks either climbing or scrambling. He must have been exploring when this happened”. Russ Walling said, “Wow! Well, peace at last for John and his family and friends”. Susan Peplow said, “We are saddened of the results but relieved that part of the mystery is gone. Jokingly we can stop saying “where is the gambler” which we do whip out on a regular basis. It’s amazing how often the thought comes of what happened to him. So many people still talk about it even all these years later”. Tyke said, “Jane, I am like you… My heart is at peace because of the blue sky and rocks. It’s great to know that all our horrible made-up scenarios about abduction and cruelty did not come true. Will we be so lucky, when we breathe our last breath, to be in the act of doing something for which we have as much devotion and passion as John did for rocks? For him, it seems fitting.” Eric Bard, John’s very good geology friend from Western State College in Gunnison said, “It closes what had been such a painfully mysterious incident, about a man who had such a profound effect on me, touching my life and forever changing it with his extreme passion for our natural world. This realm resonated in him unlike anyone else that I have ever met. His joy at all things geologic was infectious”. Phil Watkins still likes the idea of the Witness Protection Program better. Many of the climbers have also left their thoughts and messages to the family and friends on the attached supertopo.com, mountainprojects.com and rockclimbing.com sites. I am so appreciative and read them nearly every day.
“My thoughts that I just told the Las Vegas News3 channel were: “It is a good end to a sad story … or perhaps… It is a sad end to a good story”. I have shied away from the media but there was a lot of misinformation coming forth so I did speak with AZ3 News in Phoenix as they had feature the story when I first arrived at John’s house in May 2005 and they were quite nice, professional and concerned. They also interviewed a longtime friend of John’s, Jeff Raymond, who spoke so kindly of him; he was the friend who was telling me that when Johnny was in junior high, he would take a shower in the dark with his ropes and practice tying knots so when he was stranded on top of a mountain in the pouring rain, he could tie good knots. There are so many good stories out there!! I also responded to the request for an interview from Anita Roman of New3 Las Vegas and they did a very thorough feature and televised the daring helicopter recovery of his remains that were removed from the rock ledge. It is a very chilling news feature. Sgt. Vesp of the LVMPD Search and Rescue said in the television news interview (that is also attached), “There’s a family, there’s people wondering what happened. You always feel good when you can help somebody out or close a chapter in a book. There’s definitely some family members out there”. OH MY GOSH, I had just watched the news coverage of the recovery of my brother’s remains and I felt as though Sgt. Vesp was talking directly to me, I cannot tell you how much his words meant to ME. I had never given up the search for John and I am so appreciative for the rescue team who had risked their lives to gather and bring down his remains so that all of us can now have closure.
The rock climbers have some good links going and I have attached those to you al well. I fear the Denver news will find me soon, I have been trying to keep a low profile until the police reports have been finalized and attempting to contact and respond to the kind climbers who have searched for John over the past almost 6 years. We are still waiting for the Police, Search & Rescue and Coroners final reports. I had asked the coroner if he could tell if there were any fractures on the few bones found indicating a bad fall, but there were too few remains. Phil is very disappointed that John did not return, as they had planned to go to Escalante in Utah in April 2005 to do some hiking and had planned the trip just weeks before John left for Las Vegas New Years trip on 12/28/04. When John’s healing up from an injury, he would sometimes ask Phil if he wanted to meet in Canyonlands to go “hiking”, often more accurately described as extreme hiking and scrambling. On one trip, they scrambled a difficult route up some rocks and Phil’s comfort zone was pushed but John said to get on his toes and do not use hands and sure enough, Phil had a much easier difficult climb; he said John scrambled up the rocks like a fly. They climbed up to some cliff dwellings, explored a while, then once at the top, Phil was very concerned about the descent. John said that was no problem as there was a path down the other side – guess John was infamous for sandbagging. Johnny would invite Phil, and sometimes friend, Bill Brahmstedt, to meet in Moab and camp on BLM and go exploring. John would be scouting out new routes and looking for new potential First Ascents, while Phil and Bill would be scouting as well, but they were seeking photographs rather than climbs. I am happy about the ending of the saga with none of the feared Las Vegas dark side. Jill kept telling me she was certain that Johnny had “passed over” and just again this November, asked me when I could believe that, I said I felt he is not alive, but I won’t be okay with it until you “show me the body” and I just saw that on the Las Vegas news coverage of the helicopter recovery by Sgt Vesp and team. I’m okay with it now. This is what I needed to see!!
This will be so good to have the search for John over, we never stopped searching for him, I looked into the eyes of every homeless person I saw, those with signs, persons walking down the streets, driving by the tent cities in Las Vegas and other cities. I have been handling his affairs for almost 6 years, saved his townhouse from foreclosure and dealt with all the bottom-feeders that go along with that… I certainly thought that John must be returning back home. My search was very intensive following up on every imaginable tip and credit card purchase. I took 5 trips to Las Vegas and 4 to Arizona, even had several visits with Rick Johnson, Denver Private Investigator. Jill did her search in the psychic realm. With the help of a very special LVMPD Det. Juarez and his thorough investigations and those by the Scottsdale Police Department (Thank you Natalie Summit), the search continued. We viewed the ATM photos and between his investigations and my huge variety of searches I think we left very few stones unturned. Amazing there are between 800 to 1000 missing persons in Las Vegas per month! I documented every credit card purchase for his three weeks in Las Vegas and called or visited every location. I did find that John had a Gem Optical purchase of some very expensive sunglasses with special polarized lenses for use in climbing so that would have better sun/shadow transitions, and he had requested a rush order as he said he needed them soon to go hiking. Another interesting expense was to Sparkle cleaners for $8. What in the world would he have had cleaned? I suspected his sleeping bag, but months later when I called them to request information, the Asian woman told me the bill was for a pair of slacks; John was not one to have laundered clothing so we suspect that he was really dressing up for a big high-stakes poker game and a last ATM photo shows him wearing his newly pressed Dockers. I even went to the Subway where he ate where the owner thought she recognized him and to the Blue Diamond Truck Stop where the climbers took showers. I checked out every purchase throughout Las Vegas and Summerlin. John’s rock climbing friends also continued searching and kept the forum information coming in as well. We all searched everywhere but none of us expected such an innocent and logical ending. Perhaps I should have given more attention to the Texas Hold Em 5.11b hand-written route papers he had left on his dresser, but that never occurred to me. I have a special Thank You to Attorney, Mark Theut, who set up the Conservatorship and we have worked together so hard on 5 years of his affairs, accounting and court appearances. It was a huge financial drain for us to pay his mortgage and expenses for 4 years, less some “rent from housesitters” who cost us a fortune in home repairs and had taken so many things from his home, but that is what a big sister does, and at the beginning, I never imagined that he would not be coming home. Phil and I did a home makeover, repairing and flipping the house in a week, necessary since it had been rented to some individuals who certainly did not care for it. We had new carpet and tile installed and we painted, repaired, cleaned and when we left the house looked as good as new. We packed up remained of John’s possessions that had not been stolen by housesitters and we were thrilled that the dozens of boxes I had packed up in May 2005 were still stored along the side of the garage. We packed them and his patio table and chairs, along with all Phil’s ladders and tools, into the Tundra and headed back to Colorado taking the scenic route through Monument Valley and Moab. Oh my, what happened to Moab? The climbers Mecca is now just like the tourist towns in Colorado with visitors roaming the street with ice cream cones. Once back in Littleton, we unloaded John ‘s boxes and possessions in our basement, leaving everything just as I packed it in 2005. John’s home was sold to a very nice man who will take good care of it (John would be quite happy with this new owner of his home as he was quite proud of his Scottsdale townhouse – but Peder’s supertopo thoughts were correct as the house took away his nomadic lifestyle and joy; Scottsdale was so nice but it was not really John. Peder was right, I’m sure he did like ONE key better!!! John had good equity in the home and certainly could have sold it and had a nice profit to buy a new 4Runner or truck to move into and travel around the country. Although so much had changed since John began climbing in 1969: Trad climbing has been replaced with bouldering or sport climbing in gyms, Moab has changed with the all the dirt bikes, ATV’s and non-athletic tourists arriving in tour buses everywhere, The economy and Day Trading changed after 9/11, The game of Poker has even changed and John was 48 with some arthritis in his fingers and toes. His climbing partners were now half his age and John had become an old-timer and the go-to-guy with Trad climbing questions. It appeared that he was still working on drawing up routes for new climbs on a piece of paper on his dresser with Texas Hold Em route, any of you know of a route he was working on for a climb called “Baja California”? He very much enjoyed mentoring young climbers like Josh and answering their questions on rockclimbing.com.
Phil feels a sadness, somewhat like a marine layer is over him now when he thinks of John’s death, but I feel the opposite. I feel the burden has been lifted, the dark cloud is gone and I see the bright blue sky just like the one he chose for his photo on the rock climbing sites and that he posted for his RockClimbing.com personal profile. The blue-sky photo reminds me of the happier and better days. I feel good that he is in a location that he loved, doing what he loved, and probably had figured out the route improvement for Texas Hold ‘Em and the paper has blown away in the wind. However, it is a bit ironic that it was NOT the poker game of Texas Hold ‘Em that took him in the end, but the improvements to the climb of Texas Hold ‘Em with it’s 5.12c and the Prince of Darkness’s 5.10c solo climb. Some climbers thought perhaps he could even been climbing on an old route between the currently used routes, this might also make sense as John’s mind worked in patterns and possibly doing a solo climb he had done long ago. Perhaps he now is looking down with his kid-like smile laughing along with all these stories that are being posted about his climbing and honored by other stories. I think we should have a winner for the best story posted. Perhaps John will also be looking down at the climbers on the Black Velvet Wall as well; I envision the scene in Squamish, where some climbers sit on the ridge and watch the bottleneck of climbers progressing up the route on crowded weekend days, recalling the story when John was working a route just above another and a guide with his group wanted him to stop as they passed under, but John kept working, later naming it “Progress Can’t Wait”. Maybe there is an irony there and more to that phrase as well. Perhaps John’s presence will be felt by Black Velvet climbers, as they make their way to the top of these two climbs or maybe climbers will have a random thought that pops into their head that another handhold could be safer. (Remember the 1980’s TV show Magnum PI, when he would always have that little voice in his head that would be giving him a word of wisdom). On a sad note, with the Christmas season upon us, I was listening to Silent Night and of course, I always think of the Nativity scene and Jesus in the Manger, but this time I pondered how many silent nights was John alive on that ledge. On a better thought, there must have been many lovely sunsets over the past 6 years from that Black Velvet rock ledge too. This reminds me of the old cowboy westerns, the movie was over when the legendary hero would ride off into the sunset. John did finish with a Hollywood Ending.
I was just glancing through some of John’s classic climbing books and found a quite special small book: Advanced Rockcraft by Royal Robbins, 1973, finding a very relevant description: “SOLO: I am pulled in different directions writing this chapter, On the one hand I don’t wish to encourage solo climbing. The mountains are more dangerous when one is alone. Probably the greatest danger of solo climbing is its addictive influence. It’s a strong shot, and one hungers for more, tending to draw the line finer, and when that happens a possibility exists of the appearance of a morbid note, and then the joy vanishes. On the other hand, for those temperamentally suited to it, soloing has its rewards as well as its terrors.” Hmmm, makes you wonder!!
We will soon be taking a quick road trip out to Las Vegas to meet with Coroner, Missing Persons Detective and Search and Rescue as well as visit the Black Velvet Canyon and perhaps see some local climbing friends. I still must contact a crematory or mortuary regarding John’s remains, perhaps I can get a discount, as there are just a few bones. Amanda has offered to watch our Bernese Mountain Dog puppy, O’Henry, and we can look forward to an In-N-Out Burger as we don’t have them in Colorado. We have spoken with Gary Neptune at Neptune Mountaineering in Boulder, CO and we will probably have a celebration/memorial in late April for John, probably in coordination with a fundraiser for Layton Kor sponsored by the Joanne and Jorge Urioste. I plan on having all of his climbing shoes as a special display and his climbing equipment with metal parts. (When I arrived at this home in 2005, Darin told me to make sure to gather all climbing equipment with metal parts!). There will be an abundance of slides and photographs of John climbing with lots of friends and perhaps we might learn the identity of some of those friends who might be in attendance. At Neptune Mountaineering, we will look forward to meeting some of John’s friends and friends of friends or anyone who followed his legendary climbing career. We will be adding some of John’s climbing equipment to their museum. We may also have a Rosholt Rendezvous somewhere, somehow, someway and sometime in Black Velvet Canyon this spring. John’s good geologist friend thought it would be appropriate for fellow climbers to bring a special rock.
As New Years approaches, I think that six years ago John was celebrating Christmas, went to see his first Phoenix Suns game and was preparing for his New Years Trip to Las Vegas. The last time Jill and I heard from him was 12/28/04. We know he received the Christmas present we gave him because in one of the ATM photos, he was wearing his new Needles Outpost hat that he had opened just days before he left. We thank you all for your thoughts, prayers and concern regarding John. Although this is surely a very bittersweet ending, I rest assured that his life ended climbing and doing what he loved, in a favorite area that he also loved.