Local Climber Remembered by Father, Best Friend

The bodies of missing climbers Ben Horne, 32, and his friend Gil Weiss, 29, were discovered on a mountain range in Peru Saturday

A San Diego-based mountain climber who died on a trek along the Cordillera Blanca mountain range in Peru is being remembered by his loved ones.

Ben Horne,
32, lived in La Jolla and was a graduate student studying economics at the University of California, San Diego.

Horne and his Colorado-based friend Gil Weiss, 29, set off to climb the glacier-capped 20,000-foot peak in northern Peru earlier this month and had not been heard from since July 11.

On Saturday, their bodies were discovered by a search crew.

Horne’s father Gary Horne, who lives in Virginia, told NBC 7 San Diego that his son and Weiss appeared to have fallen off a ridge and plunged to their deaths several days ago.

Gary fondly remembered his athletic son and described Horne as a responsible hiker with good judgement who liked to push himself to the edge physically.

Gary said Horne was also an avid runner who also enjoyed competitive swimming, bicycling and triathlons.

Gary said his son was studying economics and political science at UCSD and was highly academic. He enjoyed learning about other cultures and beliefs and, in Gary’s words, “Loved to talk to people of all different faiths.”

In his personal life, Gary said Horne was very devoted to the Roman Catholic Church.

“The hardest thing for me as a parent would be if my child fell away from God and died and had no faith, but Ben was really a remarkable person who practiced his faith in deep ways. We’re at peace knowing he’s in heaven,” said Gary.

Father John Paul Forte was Horne’s local priest and told NBC 7 San Diego that the climber was deeply connected to his faith.

"His faith really was something that was always a grounding factor in his life - this beautiful blending of his intellectual academic pursuits with a real grounding in his spirituality,” explained Father John.

With news of Horne’s death, Father John said the UCSD Catholic community is feeling a deep loss.

“It’s been hard today you know tomorrows going to be a big day - Sunday's are always hard. [Ben was] a great, great person and he is somebody that will definitely be missed,” he added Saturday.

Horne was engaged at one point to Liora Danan, 31. They amicably broke off their engagement and remained friends, according to Gary.

Danan spoke with NBC 7 San Diego on Saturday and recalled her time with Horne.

The pair met in 2001 while attending Rice University in Houston. She described him as an open-minded world traveler who was fascinated by different places and people.

"He was the most compelling person I’ve ever known. He lives life more consistently than anyone I’ve ever met. He has a philosophy of the way life works, and he actually lives according to those values. His spirit is so big, but he didn't really have a lot of patience for people who didn't try. He believed in giving everything he could,” said Danan.

Horne had an online blog where he wrote about his life and hobbies, including his love of mountain climbing.

“I grew up in the Appalachians, then lived for spells in the Tien Shan (Kyrgyzstan) and the Rockies. I love mountains and most everything about them. Now I live by the sea in La Jolla, California, with the mighty Sierra Nevada very close by. My favorite place is Joshua Tree,” reads one of his blog entries.

Horne continued: “I love sports, especially running, rock climbing and mountaineering. I enjoy them for their own sake, and I also use them to better understand myself, humanity and the world. In all of these things, I like to go big, push myself, and do hard things where I might fail–without a chance of failure a success is not as sweet. I also surf, bike, backcountry snowboard and at one point, I loved basketball over all else.”

Danan said the climbers had completed most of their climb in Peru before falling near the peak.

On Saturday, she recalled one of Horne’s favorite motivational quotes from Steve Prefontaine, a runner who also died young:

“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”
Horne’s father is flying from Virginia to Peru to claim his son’s body Sunday and said there will be services for Horne both in Virginia and San Diego.

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