Expert Weighs In On Climbing Tragedy

UCSD Student Ben Horne, Gil Weiss Fell From Mountain In Peru

Answers are still being sought in the deaths of UC San Diego graduate student Ben Horne and his climbing partner Gil Weiss in the mountains of Peru.

 

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Satellite imagery showed the treacherous route down the towering 20,000-foot peak in Peru taken by the two climbers. Search crews found their base camp at 16,000 feet, and rescue crews learned Horne and Weiss fell 1,000 feet off a ridge to their deaths.

"If you get caught in a wrong situation and you're not prepared for it, bad things can happen fast," said Michael Dong, an instructor at the Mesa Rim Climbing Center who has scaled mountains in Peru six times and has made countless other climbs.

He said while an avalanche is a possibility as the cause of their fall, Dong said the shape of the ridge makes that less likely.

Horne and Weiss experienced hurricane-like winds, which could have blown the two off the ridge. A whiteout is also another possibility.

"The fog is white, the show is white, the ground blends into [the] horizon. All you see is white, it gives you vertigo," said Dong.

Sources told 10News Horne and Weiss were blazing their own route down -- a route deemed steep and dangerous.

Because that route was so treacherous, the men were likely tied together most of the time. It meant if one man moved, the other followed, and it would explain why both fell.

Dong said it's not surprising an accident would occur during a descent.

"That's when most of the accidents occur, because of fatigue, you let your guard down. There's been many times in my journal logs where I've misspelled my name," he said.

An initial accident report on the deaths of Horne and Weiss is due later this week.

"It's horrible to have a person die in the mountains, but one of the best gifts they can give is to convey information to save other climbers," said Dong.

Eight people have now died on the Peruvian mountain range this year and more than 40 have been evacuated for medical emergencies.