Alisa Clamen after completing Santa Cruz Trek: “It felt like I completed something Jesse couldn’t”

Jesse Galganov´s mother Alisa Clamen looked incredibly tired when the editor of The Huaraz Telegraph met her yesterday morning for a brief interview at the Andino Club Hotel in Huaraz. Having just completed the Santa Cruz Trek on Wednesday, she was willing to share the latest details regarding the search but also explained how the trek where her son went missing at the end of October of last year cannot be called a ‘moderate’ trek. Aside from the fact that she didn’t notice any park guards on or around the trail, she claims that signs were missing or falling apart and wild animals were occupying the toilet facilities. Furthermore, she was heavily disappointed with the local police investigations and that there are barely 25 officials conducting the search for her now 23-year-old-son. All the information [the local police] have is thanks to the thorough investigations of the Magnus team from Israel.” 

When did you come back to Peru and how did your trek go?

I arrived in Lima on Wednesday night and my best friend Patty Lallouz and I flew to Huaraz the very next day. We gave ourselves three days to get acclimatised to the altitude first and on Sunday morning, we drove to Cashapampa. Patty and I started the trek exactly as the point where Jesse started the trek. On the first day we climbed up to Llamacorral which was very steep. This trek is advertised as moderate by the locals and the people who manage the Huascarán National Park, however, I believe it´s not moderate. Instead, it´s very challenging, especially if you´re not acclimatised. We met a couple on the way up, a girl from France together with guy from Quito who looked really strong and fit and they were suffering. They had to turn around, they couldn’t do it, and they had acclimated for over a week. So going upwards we managed to place many stickers with a blue heart and Jesse´s picture on it. On day two, we hiked to Taullipampa, which turned out to be the least challenging day with a small decline at the end of the day. Here we stayed overnight at the same campsite where Jesse apparently stayed his last night with the two French trekkers before making his way to Punta Union. Jesse stayed overnight on September the 30th on Monday night at the second campsite.

The next day we made our way to the Punta Union Pass and here we got hit by snow and hail. I wanted to see everything Jesse saw. I know at what point he was last seen, but don’t know if he got past that point. I know where Dana, the guide from the Czech Republic said to have seen him. By the way, all this information came from Magnus, the local police never came up with anything. Every single piece of intelligence and information came from Magnus, as to who he saw or to whom he spoke to, it was purely Magnus.

We stopped at the top of Punta Union and said a prayer for Jesse. On our way downwards we went to the place where the Magnus’ team has set up their camps, about one hour below the pass on the east side of the trail. I was able to speak to the team and they are doing a specialised underwater search. The Magnus team hired a Canadian firm called Deep Trekker from Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. They´re obviously going through the bodies of water that are near the areas where Jesse was last seen. I also managed to push the searchers to not focus only on the east side of the pass, but also near Taullicocha on the west side. Even though it´s not incredibly accessible, there is a cliff. We skipped the third campsite, Paría, and didn’t stay there; we would arrive at a lodge where we could use their campground and toilet facilities. The next morning, we reached Vaquería. It felt like I completed something Jesse couldn’t, I walked in his footsteps, I did the trek in his honour, I slept where he slept, I saw what he saw and I finished what he couldn’t finish.

Now, as for the police; they have been advertising about 80, 100, the army, dogs, etc. I saw them coming up when we walked down. Maybe 20, maybe 25 members at most. I also saw Yury Wilder Toscano Villafana (Peruvian lawyer and head of the Peruvian National Police (PNP) Criminal Investigation Division in Huaraz) and he told me that they were planning to do a four-day search. However, he said that they were only carrying supplies for three days. I also saw the two Canadian and two American representatives making their way up, they were ahead of the police. They would try to contact the Magnus team later and see if they could be of any help but they´re mainly there to observe. I don’t have any great faith in the local police and believe they need to be pushed harder. I think they need to do more interrogations, as their works have been sorely lacking. Also, Peru does a dreadful job in keeping its tourists safe. And, like I said before, don’t say it´s a moderate trek. Say what it is, it´s a difficult one, even leaving the altitude aside.

What is the Magnus team doing at the moment exactly?

They´re searching the lakes around Punta Union with a Remote Operated Vehicle. They´re not staying 21 days but they´re expected to come back to Huaraz on this Saturday.

What have you planned?          

I will certainly be here waiting for the team´s return, and also for the one of the PNP. If there is a result, I will obviously be here until the end. If there is none, I will have to reevaluate and decide what the next steps will be. This is actually phase seven of the search and we go through all the phases. We make plans, do brainstorming and together with Magnus we also carefully look at the budget.

I am sure it was heartbreaking doing the trek but do you feel relieved?

I feel a little bit a more at peace. I am never going to feel at peace until Jesse is found, but let´s say a little bit. To me, Taullipampa, Punta Union and so on, were just words on a map and now I can picture it all. When the team and I discuss what to do, I now know what it all looks like. I didn’t really expect anything from it before the start. I couldn’t ever have imagined me doing this. It was never in my head. I remember having given interviews in Montreal where I said that I was not going up the trail, because we had hired the team to do that. Now the second time I got here in January this year and emotionally being in a very bad state, I just couldn’t do it. Being in Canada I texted my friend Patty that I thought I wanted to do the trek this time. Before getting a reply I had already decided to do it. So, we did it together.

What is your general idea on what might have happened to Jesse, has this idea changed?

He suffered from altitude sickness and wasn’t in a good shape. Either because of natural causes he couldn’t finish the trek and someone moved him, or someone came up upon him straight away.

How´s the communication between the Magnus team and the PNP?

I´d say it´s a clash of egos. Not so good. Understand that the PNP want to be seen as they´re doing their job professionally, but they´re not. When they mention the information they have obtained, it´s actually all the information from Magnus. I don’t care about that, I don’t care about the ego clash. I have only one sole goal and purpose – I just want Jesse found. I don’t care if the police find him, a muleteer or a tourist, I just want him found. Magnus doesn’t care either, they don’t have an ego. They share everything with the police. The problem is that the PNP are not listening to General Darío Hurtado. They have no clue what they´re doing and they don’t take his recommendations. They´re not experienced enough. All the information they [the local police] have is thanks to the thorough investigations of the Magnus team from Israel.

How´s your daughter doing?

She´s O.K., under the circumstances. We live together so we spend a lot of time together. She´s a tough girl although she keeps a lot of feelings for herself. But she´ll talk about it when we´re together. She just got a new puppy which is really cute. We are closer now than we have ever been before, and this is a good thing because my daughter is not much like me but we grew towards each other. I just took some time. Jesse is more like I am, and he was my best friend, my confidant, my ski partner, my dinner partner, there were so many things we did together. My daughter would have come to Huaraz and it would have been very tough for her emotionally but the new puppy gave her a good reason not to come. But she´ll do the trek one day, she wants to do it. As long as she has a guide and a Magnus satellite device, I’ll let her do it. I spoke about this with her just yesterday and she said she wanted to do it with a friend and I said that´s O.K. Whenever the time comes, you can do it is what I said.

Did you see the park guards, besides obviously at the start and finish of the trek?

I didn’t even see them at the start nor at the exit point of the trek. Haven’t seen anyone, aside from muleteers, lots of donkeys, a puma, many bulls and cows and a dog. Lots of animals but no patrols, no guards, nothing. We stopped every time we saw trekkers that looked tired or in not such a good shape to ask if they were able to make it to the next stop. People need to look out for each other. Although I don’t think that this is a thing many people do, I wish that the people who have seen Jesse would have taken his physical state a bit more seriously. I wish that Victor, the French guy who saw him twice and realised how slow he was going had not just said ´maybe you should take a brake´, but instead ´you must´. Then the last woman who saw Jesse, Dana, I wish that she had said something similar. I wish that the two French guys who stayed at the second campsite with Jesse had said that. However, I cannot fault them.

What´s your expectation of the Peruvian search and how do you feel about the PNP?

I have no expectations anymore, although I pray a lot. I have absolutely no confidence in their (PNP) search. I am praying that Magnus comes with a result. I met them (PNP) all on the trail when they came up and said in Spanish to each one of them ´Hi, I am Jesse´s mother, thank you for your work, and good luck´. I memorised it in Spanish. There were between 20 or 25 but not 120. I am praying and relying upon the Israelis. I feel incredibly disappointed with the Peruvian authorities.   

What would you say to tourists that might do the Santa Cruz Trek in the future?

Well, to start I’d say that they need to sure that they´re acclimated. They should spend at least two or three days at a higher altitude. Two, we took plenty of Diamox (Acetazolamide, altitude pills) and started taking them four days in advance. Don´t do the trek on your own. I would recommend getting a guide because unless you´re experienced, the trail is not well marked. Signs are either missing or falling apart and there are points at the trail where you wonder, which way is it? My guide would say, ´don‘t go that way, that´s Alpamayo´, but it´s not well marked. The toilet facilities are some stone buildings without a door and you share it with the donkeys and other animals. I´d say that there´s no facilities at all on the trek. To Canadians who plan traveling to Peru, I´d say that Peru is not a safe place for tourists. My son is not the only Canadian missing in this country, not to mention the nationals that go missing.

Picture: Alisa Clamen and her best friend Patty Lallouz near Punta Union & Alisa Clamen at the second campsite of Taullipampa

2 Responses to “Alisa Clamen after completing Santa Cruz Trek: “It felt like I completed something Jesse couldn’t”” Subscribe

  1. carolinaB May 21, 2018 at 09:48 #

    I hope Jesse is found, Nobody deserves what is happening to Jesse and his family.

    I’ve also notice several contradictions coming from his mother. She indicates she’ll let her daughter visit Huaraz with a guide and a friend but at the end of the article she doesn’t recommend tourists to visit Peru.

    I understand all the pain she must be going through, but at the same time I think she’s putting all the responsibility and blame on the Peruvian government which is unfair.

    The whole situation could have been prevented very easily. First, information regarding Huaraz and its climate is found online. For example, I did research on the area, geography, culture, crime, transportation etc, in many websites and read people’s experiences in multiple forums before going to Huaraz last year, therefore, I knew I would probably get altitude sickness, so I brought pills, I also got myself a small bag of coca leaves which helped a lot with altitude sickness (you can find coca leaves everywhere in Huaraz)

    Second, traveling ALONE, to remote areas of a developing country you’ve never been to before is simply a choice and “at your own risk”. I would never recommend, encourage or support that idea; not even experienced trekkers travel alone.

    It’s very easy to blame a government or others but hard to take public responsibility for failing to take simple precautions in order to prevent what happened to Jesse.

    People disappear all over the world every day in developed and developing countries. It’s up to people to use common sense, investigate, research and be careful not to put themselves in dangerous situations than can lead to negative outcomes.

    Wishing a positive outcome for Jesse and his family.

  2. melissa July 18, 2018 at 09:48 #

    She is not putting pressure and critising the peruvian government they are facts they do not care and are not taking this seriously .. peru mexico there all the same there used to things like this happinging … this coming from a canadian with south american parents this is the truth. no one knows the situation because they are not living it … those officials arent worried about finding him because they would of put a whole team out looking for him not just 25members !!! the pain this family is suffering is unbearable peru is one of the countries in south america that spend the most money on soccer did u know that ? not just on world cup in general there home teams … i dont see them having donated any money in helping this search instead of there soccer they sound be doing alot more its a disgrace and this is why third world countries remain third world countries keep in mind my blood is south american but the truth is the truth.. i wish u all the best and all the blessings and i hope u find your son if u read this i really do i hope you get the closure you need and hey i speak fluent spanish if ever you need translating dont ever hesitat godbless you

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