A Utah doctor faces federal charges after allegedly making a false report of hypothermia in a bid to be rescued from Denali.
According to court documents, Dr. Jason Lance, a radiologist from Ogden, was attempting to summit Denali via the West Buttress — the most frequently climbed route on the mountain — on May 24 when his mountaineering partner, Adam Rawski, experienced altitude sickness between 18,600 and 19,200 feet.
Concluding that Rawski was too sick to continue, Lance left him with a separate group and continued toward a solo summit, charging documents stated. At some point, Lance abandoned his solo climb and rejoined the group of three.
Around 6 p.m., Rawski — who was unroped — fell approximately 1,000 feet down the Autobahn, according to charging documents. Rawski, who was alive but unresponsive, was rescued by Denali’s high altitude helicopter.
After the rescue, Lance requested an evacuation for the group because they were “stuck without equipment,” charging documents stated. After being told that the helicopter could not rescue the men that evening, Lance told rangers that a climber in the group was suffering from hypothermia.
“Can’t descend safely. Patients in shock. Early hypothermia. Can’t you land east of pass,” he sent via satellite communication device. The National Park Service then launched a helicopter with rescue supplies to reach the climbers “because medical shock is serious and potentially fatal,” charging documents stated.
The helicopter returned a short time after learning that the men had begun descending on their own, according to court documents.
After their successful descent, the two climbers told park rangers that neither of them had suffered any form of medical shock or hypothermia at any point during their ascent or descent, according to charging documents.
When confronted with the inconsistencies, Lance told Rangers that “he is a licensed and trained physician” and “did not need to be lectured on hypothermia,” court documents said. Rangers discovered that multiple messages had been deleted from the satellite communication device.
Lance is facing charges in the U.S. District Court,District of Alaska which include interfering with government employees, violating lawful order and filing a false report.
He is expected to appear in federal court Dec. 6 for an arraignment hearing, according to court records.