Utah climber fined, banned for making false rescue claim

Denali. The V-shaped notch in the upper left quadrant is Denali Pass, at18,200 feet. The flat plateau below it to the right is where the high camp sits. (NPS Photo/Jeff Pflueger)

A Utah physician was fined and banned from climbing Denali for five years after he made false claims to get himself and his friends rescued off the mountain, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Scott A. Oravec ordered Dr. Jason Lance, 48, to pay a $5,000 fine and donate $5,000 to the Denali Rescue Volunteers during a sentencing hearing Thursday in Fairbanks, according to a spokeswoman for the Alaska U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Oravec at the hearing “noted the seriousness of the case given the extremely dangerous environment in which the defendant impeded the investigation,” according to a statement from federal prosecutors.

The Daily News could not reach Lee or his attorney for comment.

After one critically injured climber in his group was rescued by park rangers, Lance then asked to be evacuated off the mountain, prosecutors say. Rangers told him the helicopter was no longer flying that night and told him the only way down was to rope up and descend.

The doctor then claimed people in his group were in shock and suffering from early hypothermia, the charges say. Rangers launched a helicopter to provide what they thought was urgent medical help, only to turn back after guides said the group of three was descending.

One of the climbers testified he and the other climber were never suffering from shock. Instead, the charges said, Lance had insisted they stay put because the National Park Service was obligated to rescue them because they had paid a fee.

The other two climbers ultimately convinced Lance to descend with them to a 17,200-foot high camp.

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