THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE DOWNRIGHT UGLY
Lately I’ve been looking into travel insurance options for a rock climbing trip I’m taking to the States this winter. We’re planning to climb in California and Wyoming, mainly trad with a bit of sport and bouldering. When I’ve asked advice from friends who’ve been on similar trips I’ve been getting one of two responses:
1. I didn’t get special climbing insurance. I figured if something went wrong I’d just say I was hiking. Or abseiling.
2. I went with ‘insert insurance company here’. Check them out.
But on closer inspection, most of the companies in numero 2 didn’t actually cover rock climbing, or had exclusions that meant they covered some kinds of rock climbing and not others. Oops.
I decided to do a little research on insurance companies that offer climbing cover and this is what I found. (None of these policies cover trips to the Arctic or Antarctica).
1. World Nomads
At first glance this looks great, but I didn’t have to look too far to discover that this wasn’t the one for me. They cover four kinds of rock climbing:
- Bouldering/no ropes/no equipment
- Indoor rock climbing
- Sport or bolted climbing
- Rock climbing ‘outdoor’
The only one of these that is covered for independent climbers is bouldering or climbing with no ropes or equipment (does that include soloing? 🙂 )
To be covered for #2-4 you have to be with a professional, qualified and licensed guide or operator, so it’s not relevant for independent climbers. If you’re planning a guided climbing trip though, you might want to check them out.
This insurance sounds great but is only available to NZAC members who are New Zealand residents. If you are one, good for you! You can find out more here.
Insure4Less offers climbing specific cover, and my first impression was that they seem to be pretty onto it. Before they generate a quote they ask a lot of questions about your climbing background (years climbing, grade, style, previous injuries and search/rescues) and trip intentions. They also have sensible exclusions (for example they won’t cover you if you’re soloing or not wearing a helmet).
On their Alpine Climbing Plan (the minimum if you are trad climbing) they cover you for:
- Search and rescue up to $50,000
- Loss or damage to baggage up to $7,500
- Everything included in their general travel insurance policy
(I’m pretty sure these values are in Australian dollars).
The catch with these guys is that to buy their climbing insurance policy you have to buy their entire general travel insurance policy, which hikes the price right up. Oh, and there is a $500 excess on every claim. Not my first choice, but they do cover you for climbing.
To find out more about rock climbing insurance from insure4less, click here.
These guys offer basic rescue and medical cover to their members for many adventure activities including mountaineering, climbing, ski touring, whitewater canoeing, canyoning (and excluding paragliding and hang gliding).
Their cover includes:
- €25,000 for rescue costs to nearest road open to transport or nearest hospital
- Up to €10,000 for medically necessary treatment abroad
- Full costs for transfer for medically necessary transport from a foreign country to the country of permanent residency (+ transport for one person ‘in a close relationship’ to the person being transported)
- Liability insurance up to €3,000,000 and legal expenses up to €35,000
This cover does NOT include ‘accidents occurring in the course of taking part in an expedition’ on a mountain over 6000m. So it looks like mountaineering over 6000m is not covered. This is true, UNLESS you are climbing a 6000+m peak in a single day as part of an ‘organised trek’, as these don’t count as ‘expeditions’. Then you’re covered.
With this cover you can choose whether or not to take out general travel insurance through another company as well. I’ve heard good things about this cover, but I haven’t used it myself.
Click here to find out more:
5. Ihi Bupa
This is one I’ve been hearing about for years, but I also heard that they changed the policy wording slightly in 2012 to exclude some activities that might include climbing, so I went to investigate.
The 2012 clause reads like this: they no longer cover ‘motorsports, base jumping, paragliding and mountaineering that requires specialized climbing equipment’. It looks to me like they still cover rock climbing, just not technical mountaineering.
I emailed them to be 100% sure and they said yep, they cover rock climbing.
Their cover includes evacuation, repatriation, hospitalization and medical at 100%. There are some terms and conditions that seem to be common to all of the policies I looked at. They also cover lost or damaged baggage to €1,500.
This cover appears to be the most comprehensive for the most activities. It also offers you the option of buying basic cover (which includes most of the above benefits) and then adding non-medical or trip-cancellation cover if you want them. This is a good way to make sure you’re covered for the basics, even on a tight budget.
Check them out here.
All of this info is current on 10th April, 2014 and as accurate as it can be through my non-legally trained eyes. It goes without saying that anyone who’s looking to buy an insurance policy should read forums, discussion boards and particularly the fine print of their chosen policy. I hope that this info saves you some time and gives you a head start on where to look. Happy travels.