Jason Lance allegedly faked hypothermia to be saved from Denali

Jason Lance allegedly faked hypothermia to be saved from Denali

A Utah doctor who tried to climb Denali — the tallest mountain in North America — faces federal charges after he allegedly made a false report of hypothermia in a bid to get a helicopter to pluck him off the Alaskan peak.

Dr. Jason Lance, a radiologist from Ogden, was scaling the 20,310-foot mountain with Adam Rawski via the West Buttress route May 24 when his partner experienced altitude sickness between 18,600 and 19,200 feet, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

Lance, who had teamed up with Rawski at the 14,200-foot-high Camp 3 for the summit attempt, took his partner’s satellite device somewhere above Denali Pass, according to the outlet, which cited a charging document filed in Fairbanks.

Before continuing his climb, the doctor left Rawski with two other climbers, who then decided to abandon their own summit attempt in order to help the stricken man back down to safety.

At some point, Lance also decided to head back down and rejoined the other three people – taking the lead with Rawski behind him during the descent through Denali Pass, the complaint said.

With the two men unroped, Rawski suddenly fell from about 18,200 feet, “tumbling approximately 1,000 feet down the Autobahn,” according to the document, which said that Lance then used the Garmin device to message for help as his partner lay motionless below.

A Denali National Park’s chopper reportedly conducting surveys nearby picked up a mountaineering ranger already on the mountain before rescuing Rawski, who was flown to Talkeetna for life-saving treatment and listed in critical condition.  

Denali is the tallest mountain in North America.
Denali is the tallest mountain in North America.

Lance later reported to the Park Service that no one was injured but that he didn’t have the right gear to get down on his own and needed to be evacuated, according to the charges.

“The helicopter cannot come to your location and is not flying anymore tonight,” the park service replied, the document states. “Do you have a rope with you? Your only option tonight is descent.”

Helicopter rescuing hikers.
Dr. Jason Lance initially asked for a helicopter due because he lacked the appropriate gear to descend, and was told the helicopter was done flying for the night.
NPS / Menno Boermans

Lance then messaged back that he could not “descend safely.”

“Patients in shock. Early hypothermia. Can’t you land east of pass?” he said, apparently referring to the other climbers, according to the charges.

The Park Service then sent a helicopter but it returned when climbers in another group reported that the three people had begun descending, the charges state.

The two other climbers later said they were never in distress and had not suffered from hypothermia.

They “reported that they spent hours attempting to convince Dr. Lance to rope up and descend with them from 18,200 feet to 17,200-feet high camp after the trio watched (Rawski) fall,” the document says.

Denali Pass
Denali is 20,310 feet high.
NPS / Jeff Pflueger

Lance insisted that the Park Service was obligated to rescue them because, “We’ve paid our fee,” but the two climbers finally persuaded him to descend with them, according to the charges.

A mountaineering ranger later interviewed Lance, who allegedly refused to hand over Rawski’s satellite device and deleted messages from the Garmin InReach despite being instructed not to, the document says. He eventually handed the device over.

Lance also said that as medical professional, could recognize hypothermia symptoms even if the climbers disagreed.

The doctor was charged with interference with a government employee and violating a lawful order for refusing to hand over the device and for deleting messages. He also faces a charge of false reporting in order to prompt a rescue.

Dr. Jason Lance is charged with interference with a government employee and violating a lawful order.
Dr. Jason Lance is charged with interference with a government employee and violating a lawful order.
NPS / Joe Reichert

He is scheduled to be arraigned Dec. 6 on the three misdemeanor federal charges.

When reached by The Post at the Ogden Clinic on Thursday, Lance declined to comment about the incident, saying he had not been officially charged yet.

“I have not been charged with anything,” he said. When pressed if he had anything to say, the doctor said, “Not at this time.”

According to his bio, Lance earned his medical degree from the University of Southern California in 2003. He completed his internship in internal medicine at the Christ Hospital in Cincinnati in 2004.

He later completed his radiology training at the University of Utah Medical Center.

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