Thursday, June 20, 2024

Family searches for answers after survivalist disappeared in ‘valley of death’

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In 2016, Justin Alexander Shetler embarked on an adventure in India’s Parvati Valley, nicknamed the “Valley of Death.”

Mr Shetler, a travel blogger and survivalist from Oregon, notified his followers about the ambitious expedition in early September of that year. “I should return mid September or so,” he wrote on his blog. “If I’m not back by then, don’t look for me.”

This was the last thing he ever posted. Now almost a decade after he vanished, his family remains without answers over what happened to him.

The traveler’s story is receiving renewed attention thanks to a new ten-part podcast, “Status: Untraced,” which tells the story of Mr Shetler’s life and his family’s attempts to find him.

Justin Shetler, pictured, has not been seen since traveling to India’s Parvati Valley in 2016. His family has no answers nearly eight years later, according to a new podcast about his disappearance
Justin Shetler, pictured, has not been seen since traveling to India’s Parvati Valley in 2016. His family has no answers nearly eight years later, according to a new podcast about his disappearance (Adventures of Justin/Facebook)

Mr Shetler, who would now be 43, had survival training and would likely have been able to navigate the Parvati Valley wilderness — making his disappearance all the more perplexing, said podcast host Liam Luxon.

“Justin is a survival expert, so if somebody was living off the grid, it would be him. He has all the training for it,” Mr Luxon told Fox News.

The Parvati Valley is nicknamed “The Valley of Death” for a reason. Dozens of travelers had gone missing there since the 1990s, wrote journalist Harley Rustad in his 2022 book Lost in the Valley of Death: Obsession and Danger in the Himalayas.

The Parvati Valley, pictured, is nicknamed the “Valley of Death” because several travelers have gone missing in the wilderness since the 1990s
The Parvati Valley, pictured, is nicknamed the “Valley of Death” because several travelers have gone missing in the wilderness since the 1990s (Google Maps)

Mr Luxon, however, isn’t convinced Mr Shetler disappeared because he couldn’t survive in the region.

“Other people had passed him on the trail,” he said. “They said he was heading down and there was only one path going up and down.

“I’ve made the trek now, and it certainly seemed like he would’ve made it back to the camp. And again, this guy is a survival expert. It wasn’t like he was deep in the desert with no water and nothing around him for days.

“He should have made this trek. Nothing added up.”

Before he disappeared, Mr Shetler had “given up everything,” Mr Luxon told Fox News.

Justin Shetler pictured in 2016. Liam Luxon, host of the new podcast about his disappearance, said Mr Shetler had extensive survival training
Justin Shetler pictured in 2016. Liam Luxon, host of the new podcast about his disappearance, said Mr Shetler had extensive survival training (Adventures of Justin/Facebook)

“He didn’t have a job anymore,” the podcast host said. “He was trying to raise money for a school in Nepal that was helping to build after an earthquake. He was traveling around at his own expense.”

Mr Shetler’s mother described her son similarly in a Facebook post.

“He was a tender-hearted guy from the very beginning and always cared deeply about others, especially homeless, abused and victimized children,” she wrote on his birthday, a year after he went missing in 2017. “He sought to make the world a better place, and I want to honor his efforts.”

His mother listed charities that she hoped people would donate to in her son’s honor, including the Nepal Youth Foundation and the San Francisco Child Abuse Prevention Center.

Various theories have been suggested as to what happened to the adventurer including claims he was murdered, targeted by the local mafia, or was secretly living off the grid. However Mr Luxon said that he hopes his podcast leads to new evidence.

“I think one of the weirdest things about this entire thing has been grieving for somebody I’ve never met,” Mr Luxon told Fox News. “But I do feel like I know him now. I spent hundreds of hours talking to loved ones…Justin also changed my life.”

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