Doctor climbing Denali mountain ‘faked hypothermia for helicopter’

Dr Jason Lance (right) allegedly faked hypothermia to try to get a helicopter to rescue him from Denali mountain instead of climbing down (Pictures: AP/Ogden Clinic/Denali Rescue Volunteers)

A doctor faces three criminal charges after he allegedly climbed part of the 20,310-foot Denali mountain and faked having hypothermia to try to get a helicopter to bring him back down.

Dr Jason Lance, 47, reportedly summoned the chopper after giving up on reaching the peak in Alaska and while making his way down. The radiologist based in Ogden, Utah, seemingly called for help in May at more than 17,000 feet up Denali, which is North America’s tallest mountain.

Park rangers told Lance that a helicopter ‘cannot safely descend’. But Lance replied, ‘Cant decend [sic] safely. Patients in shock. Early hypothermia… Cant you land east of pass?’ according to a complaint obtained by the Daily Beast.

When Lance and two friends accompanying him made it down to a safe altitude, rangers found them.

Lance’s two friends said ‘neither of them had suffered from any form of medical shock or hypothermia at any point during their ascent or descent contrary to Dr. Lance’s claims to Denali NPS (National Park),’ the complaint states.

‘Both (climbers) reported that they spent hours attempting to convince Dr. Lance to rope up and descend with them from 18,200 ft to 17,200 ft high camp after the trio watched (climber) AR fall. (The climbers) reported that Dr Lance insisted the three stay put, told (the climbers) that the NPS was going to rescue them, and that the NPS was obligated to do so because “we’ve paid our fee.”‘

Lance reportedly hid in a tent and ignored rangers’ orders that he not delete messages from a Garmin satellite phone.

A subpoena of the device later showed that Lance said the actual reason he asked for the helicopter was that he did not have the necessary equipment to descent the mountain.

Lance and his two friends began their attempt to reach the summit from Denali’s Camp 3, which is 14,200 feet high.

That day, the American Alpine Institute issued a warning stating that their next stop, Camp 4, was ‘very windy and inhospitable place’.

Lance is charged with violating the lawful order of a government employee empowered to keep order and control public access during rescue operations. He is also charged with giving a false report with the purpose of misleading a government employee and making a false report that caused the US to respond to a fictitious event.

He is scheduled to appear for a virtual hearing on November 29.

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