Local guide shares search details and reveals that Jesse Galganov was last seen in Taullipampa

E arlier this week, the editor of The Huaraz Telegraph spoke with Beto Pinto Toledo, manager and founder of local tourism agency Andean Climbing, about the damaging fake news which is circulating and causing numerous rumors on whether or not Jesse Galganov has been found. Regrettably, false reports have also reached the headlines of nationwide newspapers, after a local newspaper in Huaraz published a story on the alleged finding of the body of the 22-year-old backpacker. This news was dismissed the very next day in a new article. Beto Pinto Toledo´s agency was contacted and later hired by the Israeli Search and Rescue company Magnus International to better understand the logistics during the search. We asked Beto if he could share with us some details about the search, whether he could explain where the rumors on Galganov´s case came from, and if the Canadian´s entrance to the Huascarán National Park was registered or not.

What information can you share with us Beto?

¨Well, I can confirm that on the 7th of December, the Israeli company MAGNUS International Search & Rescue Ltd (MISR) completed its search. It´s important to mention that during the past two months, many groups have helped during Jesse´s search, such as the Rescue Corps of the Mountain Guides Association of Peru (AGMP), Mexican search specialists, and police members of the Unidad de Salvamento de Alta Montaña (USAM), as well as local villagers and volunteers. Our company has been assisting MISR doing the logistics, such as hiring ten porters, a cook and two muleteers. Sadly, we weren’t successful although I believe we have conducted a very complete search.  MISR is a very professional company which had just completed a successful search mission in Kyrgyzstan, and due to their experience and highly skilled team members, they come with a very respectable reputation.¨

What´s your opinion on the fake news that’s circulating in Peru on this particular case?

¨The news is completely untrue and it’s very regrettable at the same time. Many national, international and even local news media sources have spread this news and this obviously does hurt people, close relatives of Jesse in particular. Additionally, I would like to make clear that there´s a couple of people, mainly guides, who are maliciously spreading this kind of false information. Something similar happened with Prensa Regional, but they were forced to rectify the information they published on Jesse Galganov. I believe they initially blamed a porter for having spread the information, but the truth is that this porter is actually a tourism guide. I can´t share his name at the moment, because the case is under investigation. Apparently, this person has said that they found Jesse´s body, lifted him onto a stretcher and even shipped him to his homeland. This has discredited the search we have conducted and that´s why we have demanded explanations. Remember, the case of Jesse is a judicialised case, so the guide will have to come up with some clear clarifications. Also, retired General Dario Hurtado who is part of the search team feels upset and angry because this hinders the search and especially the intelligence research that is done in coordination with the National Peruvian Police (PNP).”

In what area was the search conducted?

¨Well, our search started over a month ago, approximately, but MISR started with their investigations before that. MISR contacted retired General Dario Hurtado and started to coordinate the search and in coordination with USAM a helicopter was hired, search dogs were used, and they started their intelligence investigation. MISR analysed the registers of the Huascarán National Park and started to contact visitors who had been on the Santa Cruz trail at the same time as Jesse. Later on, two French tourists replied to an email and confirmed that they had met Jesse earlier that day. They also confirmed that they had last seen him in Taullipampa (4,250 m.a.s.l.). According to declarations made to MISR, the French backpackers have stated that Jesse was suffering headaches and might have been disoriented. Having obtained this information, we went straight to the area of Taullipampa to continue the search. This area had been searched before by other groups but we started all over again. We searched for over eight days in this area but, sadly, without any positive results. After returning to Huaraz, we initiated a second search using trackers and Google Maps to register the search area. It didn’t seem logical that Jesse would have climbed a wall or rock with a 60-80 degree incline, considering that he was also carrying his backpack. We have searched in a radius of one kilometre of the Taullipampa campsite in areas around Paccha, Arueyruri, Arteson, Centillo, Taullicocha, the edges from Punta Unión, Tocllacocha, Paria, Ranincuray, Huecrococha, Huripampa and Santa Cruz. We were really hopeful that we would find Jesse after having received the information provided by the French tourists and were thus heavily disappointed to leave empty handed. We do feel 100% satisfied due to the fact that we have conducted a very complete and comprehensive search, but there are still a couple of corners which will have to be explored.”

Being a professional mountaineer and experienced guide yourself, do you have an explanation for Jesse´s disappearance?

¨Through the years, I have now guided different type of clients. Every single human being is different, in terms of their physical and psychological state and it´s very easy for a tourist to get lost. Not everyone is acclimatised to the altitude for example, and as they mostly live in large cities they can get lost in the wilderness. I am sure if you would ship a man from the countryside to Lima for the first time, he would get lost too. Like I mentioned before, another thing is the altitude, which is often underestimated. It´s possible that Jesse suffered from acute mountain sickness (AMS), having been in Lima first and not having adapted successfully to a higher altitude before setting off for the Santa Cruz trek. If he didn’t get acclimatised to this higher altitude first, he might not have done the research. Maybe he was a bit inexperienced and it´s very likely he has suffered either from a pulmonary edema or cerebral edema. People react differently to the effects of altitude; some start to hallucinate, others feel very energetic, whereas others feel sick and get headaches. These symptoms have tourists lose their trails and can even let them fall of a cliff for example. Don’t get me wrong, the Santa Cruz trek is relatively easy, but only for people who have been hiking at altitude before. Unfortunately, in our city, not every agency is offering the correct and sufficient information to tourists before they set off to do a trek or climb. Another worrying thing is the communication options on the trail; there is almost no network coverage, so if something happens and you´re on your own, it´s almost impossible to get help.¨

Can you confirm that Jesse Galganov got into the Huascarán National Park without signing the register?

¨Indeed. Jesse left the Casa Blanca Hotel at around 5am heading towards Caraz by combi (a minivan used in Peru for public transportation). During the bus trip, he met a fellow countryman and the two French tourists I mentioned before. The French got off the bus in Yungay, as they decided to start the Santa Cruz in Vaquería, whereas Jesse continued the ride to Caraz, as he decided to hike the trail from Cashapampa. They would meet each other again after two days because they would basically walk towards each other. Jesse was not registered because he arrived very early at the National Park´s checkpoint and there was most likely no park guard present that early. Later on, the three would meet at the campsite of Taullipampa and that´s that last time Jesse was seen. The MISR team visited the two French tourists in France to verify their information and that´s why the search has mainly been focused on the Taullipampa area.¨

Will Jesse be found and what does Jesse´s case mean for tourism in Huaraz?

¨Yes, he will be found. I am hopeful but it´s unsatisfying. Our agency will continue with the search, even now MISR has left Huaraz. It´s a sad situation which also affects tourism in Huaraz. I´d like to add here that I believe it´s very regrettable that organisations such as the Regional Directorate of Foreign Trade and Tourism (DIRECTUR), the National Park or other organisations related to tourism, have not spoken or have barely spoken out on the topic. They have not shown to have had any interest in the search. The muleteer organisation of Cashapampa, for example, have not offered any help, despite being those who depend on tourism in the Santa Cruz Valley. On the other hand, the muleteer organisation of Vaquería did offer their services and searched for three complete days. The Vaquería muleteers are well aware that bad news or not finding Jesse Galganov could affect their future financially. I agree on this point of view; if we don´t find Jesse soon, this will have an effect on tourism in Huaraz.¨

Is there a logical reason why some organisations have stuck their heads into the sand during the search?

¨Honestly, I am not sure. I have to admit that in the beginning, during the first couple of weeks of Jesse´s case, I can recall that the head of the Huascarán National Park gave some explanations. They have provided the entrance register of the park´s check points but the DIRECTUR for example; I haven’t heard anything from them. Something that has possibly delayed the search are the actions of the prosecution. They should have immediately sent a document to free the Montrealer’s geolocation data to find out about his last whereabouts, but this took over three months. On the other hand, I believe the PNP have given their best efforts to find Jesse. It´s sad that paperwork sometimes makes our country look bad.¨

You previously said that the search will continue, when will this happen?

In 2018 we shall continue. Most of our employees have some time off now and let´s hope the weather conditions improve as well, as this makes the search difficult. We will head back to where we were last time and search the areas where the drones could not reach. In particular some parts which are crowded with queñuales (Polylepis). Let´s hope this search has a happy ending, because from the beginning, Jesse´s case has been strange. I am referring to the hotel where he spent his last night in Huaraz. Could you explain to me why the hotel, after two full weeks of Jesse being missing, never came forward and said: ´Jesse stayed at our place.´ But, I am hopeful, and I am sure that the truth will come to light in due course.¨

After failing to find Jesse Galganov during their search in the Peruvian mountains, the owner of MISR suspects foul play, so was revealed in the Montreal Gazette four days ago.

Photo: MISR team members and Andean Climbing during the search
Insert: Beto Pinto Toledo


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