<p>May is a peak month for climbers on Denali</p>

May is a peak month for climbers on Denali

Tourist accused of faking hypothermia to be airlifted from mountain faces federal charges

Climber called for two separate rescue helicopters while climbing Alaska’s Denali peak

Lucy Thackray
Wednesday 17 November 2021 15:34

A tourist is facing three federal charges after Alaskan authorities accused him of lying to rescuers in order to get his climbing party helicoptered off of the state’s Denali peak.

Alaskan officials filed the complaints against Utah-based radiologist Dr Jason Lance on 9 November following the incident in May, when he called two separate rescue helicopters from the 6,193-metre mountain, also known as Mount McKinley.

During the 25 May climb, Lance radioed for one legitimate helicopter rescue - for a fellow climber who had fallen and required emergency treatment for critical injuries.

But Lance then made two later calls for a rescue aircraft - the first saying he lacked the proper equipment for a safe descent (for which he was denied assistance), and the second claiming that two other climbers in his party had “signs of early hypothermia”, after which they were rescued by helicopter.

This claim was later contradicted by the climbers in question, who told rescuers they had been fine.

The charges from Alaskan authorities state that Lance told the two climbers that “we’ve paid our fee”, so the Park Service should rescue them.

All climbers of Denali must pay for a $375 (£279) permit in order to ascend the mountain.

Lance also faces charges for initially refusing to hand over a satellite device which contained messages from him.

Rescue workers have suggested that Lance was seen deleting messages from the device before being asked to hand it over, and refusing twice before acquiescing.

It is clear what does and does not constitute an emergency that requires airlift assistance, the rescue services said.

“Rescuer safety will always be our first priority, and weather or lack of resources often preclude us from coming to help. The NPS policy is to only respond to immediate threats to life, limb, or eyesight,” reads the Denali rescue team’s guidelines around mountaineer conduct.

When approached by the Daily Beast for comment, Lance disputed the story, calling the allegations “baseless” and the information “inaccurate”.

Lance also told Alaskan media that he could not comment, writing in an email: “As much as I’d like to discuss the complaint, I’ve been advised not to.”

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