A Montreal mother whose son vanished on a Peruvian backpacking trip last fall has walked in his footsteps over challenging terrain and dispatched a team of experts to search local waters for his body.

Alisa Clamen last heard from her son Jesse Galganov, who was 22 at the time, on Sept. 28 when he told her he would be out of contact for a few days because he was planning a four-day hike along the famous Santa Cruz trail.

Clamen left on her third trip to Peru since her son went missing earlier this month to complete the 50-kilometre hike herself. She slept where her son is known to have slept, retraced his movements to his last known location, and placed stickers on rocks and sign posts in the hopes of yielding clues.

So far, Clamen has spent more than a million dollars on the search for her son, most of which has been raised through charitable donations. A GoFundMe crowdfunding page has raised over $200,000.

Clamen said search efforts, including drone sweeps and interviews by the elite Israeli team Magnus International Search & Rescue, have tracked Galganov’s whereabouts to Oct. 1. After that, the trail runs cold.

One theory being considered by investigators is that local “muleteers” found Galganov dead and dumped his body in a mountain lake along the trail.

“He was not in good shape based on all the intelligence gathered. Because there is no sign of him, the theory is that someone moved his body,” Clamen told CTV’s Your Morning on Thursday. “What has been known to happen in the past . . . they hide bodies in bodies of water.”

Kitchener, Ont.-based Deep Trekker, a company that specializes in remote-operated underwater vehicles, has swept multiple bodies of water in the area. They will continue their search with guidance from Clamen and Magnus investigators.

The Santa Cruz trail famously cuts through the Cordillera Blanca, the world’s highest tropical mountain range, and winds through a string of tiny mountain villages. Hikers willing to brave the elevation and rugged terrain are rewarded with stunning vistas.

Clamen said her journey was challenging both physically and emotionally.

“They advertise this trek as a moderate trek. It is not moderate by any stretch of the imagination. It is challenging. The altitude makes it so much more difficult,” she said. “I wanted to see the trail myself. I wanted to honour him by doing what he wasn’t able to do.”

Wednesday was a particularly emotional day for Clamen. Galganov was due to return to Montreal from his travels in South America and South East Asia to begin preparing for medical school. Clamen spent the day searching for her son with about 80 local Peruvian police from Huaraz and other nearby villages.

“It’s really about just trying to figure out where he is, and how we are going to find him. It’s a massive area. There are so many different possibilities,” she said. “Nothing is a surprise anymore.”