FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTUU) – A climber from Utah has been denied climbing Denali and fined $10,000 after making deceptive calls to get off a dangerous section of the Denali, according to a U.S. Department of Justice news release to be rescued from the highest peak in North America.
dr Jason Lance, 48, was fined by U.S. Judge Scott A. Oravec on Friday after pleading guilty to violating a lawful order during a crash investigation into the 2021 incident.
Lance, a resident of Mountain Green, Utah, notified Denali National Park rescue teams after his unroped climbing partner fell over 1,000 feet from Denali Pass while attempting to climb the 20,320-foot mountain. According to the press release, after the man fell ill between 18,600 and 19,200 feet, Lance left the summit to attempt a solo summit using his partner’s Garmin InReach device, which uses satellite communications.
After Lance returned to the sick man and the rest of the group, the man subsequently suffered the fall but was rescued by the Denali National Park High Altitude Rescue Helicopter Team. The press release said the rescue, which lasted less than 30 minutes, saved the man’s life and was described by Denali Mountaineering Ranger and Law Enforcement Officer Chris Erickson as “one of the most significant rescues in the history of the park.”
The release said Lance used the InReach device to alert rescue teams but embellished details of their situation by saying the climbers didn’t have proper gear to get down and two other climbers were in shock. The press release said one of the climbers testified that no climbers were suffering from shock at the time. Eventually, Lance and the other climbers made it back to high camp at 17,200 feet under their own power and then returned to 14,200 feet camp.
“To obstruct the investigation of a near-fatal accident and attempt to secure a helicopter rescue under misleading assumptions demonstrates selfishness and indifference to the scarcity of public safety and lifesaving resources that is unacceptable anywhere, let alone on the highest peak in North America.” he told US Attorney John E. Kuhn, Jr. of the District of Alaska in the release.
The release states that at the 14,200 camp, Erickson then asked Lance to hand over his partner’s InReach, but Lance initially refused and then became involved in activities that Erickson said appeared to be attempting to send messages on the device to delete. A later investigation confirmed these reported suspicions by Erickson.
“Rescuing on Denali is inherently dangerous for both the rescuers and the rescued,” Brooke Merrell, acting superintendent of Denali National Park and Preserve, said in the press release. “Any rescue above 14,000 feet is a serious undertaking and should not be taken lightly or expected. I would like to acknowledge and thank the Denali Mountaineering Rangers for the quick response and skillful rescue that saved a life related to this case last May.
Oravec ordered Lance to pay $5,000 in fines for disrupting rescue operations and an additional $5,000 donation to the Denali Rescue Volunteers organization, along with a five-year ban from climbing Denali.
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