Beto Pinto Toledo tells The Huaraz Telegraph where his nickname comes from

We were contacted by Beto who, together with Belgian Guy Fonck, conquered the south peak of the Tunsho in the Central Cordillera. We met with Beto and asked him about his childhood, and how he became a professional climber. He also revealed why people call him the last Inca (el último Inca), and affirmed that, in contrast to what many think, it’s not because of his appearance.

I was born in (San Cristobal de) Mashuan, which is located south of Huaraz. When I was a young boy I attended primary school in Huaraz at the Collegio de Libertad. I remember that one day our teacher asked all pupils what they wanted to become when we were adults. Most answers varied from a doctor, a lawyer, or an engineer, but I answered that it was my dream to climb the Huascaran. My fellow students laughed at this answer because people used to say that this was something for gringos.

When I was seven or eight years old I liked to visit the lakes around my town and other parts of the Cordilleras, and in the June and July months every year there were always some tourists around the town of Mashuan, people who had come to climb Mount Shaqsha (5,703m). I guess this caught my attention. So when I could I accompanied the tourists and observed how they located their crampons in the ice to start their climb. I always got some chocolates, but what I really wanted was to join them. I used to help my grandfather, a typical hard-working Andean man, look after his animals, and on one occasion when I was with him I asked him about climbing, he answered: ¨No son, climbing is for gringos, they climb the mountains because on top of them there is a pot of gold, and that´s why gringos are richer than we are.¨ I didn’t believe that, I knew there was more to it, but didn’t know what exactly.

Then when I turned ten or eleven I started to explore the lakes around Huaraz, such as Churup and Cojup for example, and when I was twelve I got the opportunity to climb Vallunaraju (5,686m), with a friend whose father had an agency and all the equipment. Looking back now I laugh at the amount of equipment we had; a lot of if unnecessary. At one o’clock in the afternoon we reached the summit, and this made me so happy.Back home I shared my experience with my friends, but they couldn’t really understand how I felt. I guess it’s difficult to transmit the sentiment one feels when reaching the summit to people who have never climbed.

When I was a fourteen I expressed my feelings to a German lad who then invited me to climb Chopicalqui (6,354m), and off we went. I helped him with the cooking, and we finally made it to the summit, but the strange thing was that I was still full of energy, I wanted more. The German guy, however, was struggling with the altitude and was suffering with a headache. The next year he returned to Huaraz and brought all sorts of equipment for me so I could climb with him. We first climbed Pisco, and later on Huascaran. I was emotionally affected by accomplishing my dream of climbing the highest mountain in Peru (normal route, south peak).

I learned a lot during this time because the German guy, who paid for the whole trip, was leading the climb and I was never in front, but helped where I could. Back home I had to lie to people; I told them that I went to a couple of lakes, but instead I was climbing Huascaran. Now being older I feel sorry for that because it was very irresponsible. But, this is how one learns about the risks that are involved in this sport.

Not much later I started to study civil engineering and mechanics, and because my father was not able to help me financially I worked as an auto mechanic to make a little bit of money alongside my studies so I could afford to enter. Here I learned the technical assets that come with climbing. During my beginner’s course at the Casa de Guías I climbed with Xavi, who was from Barcelona in Spain and I gained more experience on Alpamayo, Quitaraju, Tocclaraju, the glacier of Chakrarahu, and a many more peaks. I also did a new route with Aritza Monasterio from Basque Country.

During this climb I felt an emotion I had never felt before. Climbing a route that has never done before and reaching the top of a mountain where no one has ever been before is when mountaineers develop themselves the most, both physically and mentally. You will learn to understand and know the mountain a lot better when it hasn’t been climbed yet, compared to mountains that are overrun with climbers (like Pisco and Vallunaraju).On a new route, you have to think a lot in advance and have to try to ‘read’ the route, even though there is no route because it hasn’t been climbed before.

With a couple of friends from the same class of Casa de Guías, including Michel Quito and Rolando Morales we planned the first expedition to the Huantsan (6,369 m), which is also known as the K2 of the Andes. We quickly reached the top, but were very unfortunate with the weather and we couldn’t reach the south peak, so we went for the north peak. When we reached the peak we named it the Wayki´s Way (route of the brothers). This is where I learned the most about leadership on a mountain, and due to necessity we found out that every mission needs a leader.

Upon our return Christian Andreas Stoll Davila, who speaks English, wrote to Alpinist, and they published the route, and featured us as the first Peruvians to make it to the top. Thanks to this publication, people started to recognise us and write to us offering their congratulations etc. It also inspired me to open more routes like Urus, where we have a route called El vuelo del Inca, at Artesonraju we opened a new route, at the facade of Pisco we had two new routes, which we called Crudita and El camino secreto de Hermann Kirchner.

Subsequently I went to the Central Andes and opened a new route on Mount Vicuñita, which I baptised as El último Inca. When we returned to Huaraz from that expedition, we went to a bar to celebrate our great achievement among friends. When I told my friends about this new route they all wanted to know the name, so I said to them: ¨we called it El último Inca!¨ People looked at me, and everybody started to laugh, and because I had long hair, and a typical Andean nose from that day on people in Huaraz called me The Last Inca (laughs). The name stuck.

I have since opened up at least 18 new routes in the Cordillera Central including one on a mountain that didn’t have a name at that point; you could call it a virgin mountain. This mountain is now called Pico Abél, and the route is called Abél as well. After that I climbed in Bolivia and Ecuador, as well as overseas where I set numerous speed-climbing-records.

Another climb that made me very proud was Llaca. After setting out in the afternoon, we carried our equipment until we reached the moraine, where we set up a bivouac (shelter). At two in the morning we were heading for the top, but it took us six hours to climb up two large parts of 120 metres, each with fragile ice and parts of rock as well. After overcoming this obstacle another 60 metre face was awaiting us. I tried three times to reach the top of this face, but fell down over and over again. Then my climbing friend Rolando tried, but he fell four times. We thought that this was the end of the expedition, because bad weather was coming in as well and we felt really tired. But Rolando wanted to try it one more time. And with concentration and focus he succeeded.

Back in Huaraz we named this route after Rolando. As his nickname is mono (monkey), the route is called El gran mono. This route was nominated for the Piolet d’Or (French for The Golden Ice Axe), which is an annual mountaineering award given by the French magazine Montagnes and The Groupe de Haute Montagne since 1991. The nomination for the Piolet d’Or was gave us sufficient inspiration to continue climbing and discovering new routes.

In 2011 I went back to the Cordillera Central Cordillera with one objective, to climb Tunsho Mountain. Something funny was going on here. All maps indicated that from the three peaks, the central peak is the south peak, but our GPS sent us in another direction. Reaching the top we named the route Chinita and published it. This caused a storm of negative reactions from people accusing us of giving false information. In the end we had to use videos and photos to prove that we actually had conquered the peak, all because of a mistake on the topographic maps that are in circulation.

This year I returned to the Cordillera Central with a Belgian client called Guy Fonck, because there was still one peak (south peak) on Tunsho that had never been climbed. After a week-long expedition, and a 14-hour attack, we finally made it. My client wanted to name the route Mel and Lies so that’s what it is called today.

Beto had much more to say about Huaraz and climbing, but we will reveal that in a future edition.

Beto thanked me (the editor) personally for making a contribution to society with this newspaper. This was nice to hear as I always appreciate positive feedback to counter the negative. Plus it is good to know that The Huaraz Telegraph’s hard work and dedication to truth is recognised.

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