Life insurance for Rock Climbing

Climbing rocks with the right life insurance is better than without. But can you even get cover?

Rock climbing is an adventure sport that sits somewhere in the middle of the risk scale; not quite as dangerous as base jumping, but perhaps more risk than scuba diving or snowboarding. So if you’re a rock climbing enthusiast looking for life insurance, expect to pay higher than normal premiums for your cover.

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What types of risks does rock climbing include?

Even if you take every precaution when you go rock climbing, it is still a dangerous sport and things can go wrong that are completely out of your control. Common risks faced by rock climbers include the following:

  • Falling rocks can strike you from above and even knock you from the cliff face.
  • Climbing ropes can be compromised and possibly severed on sharp rock edges.
  • The weather can suddenly turn bad, trapping you on a mountain or making a descent impossible.
  • You can miscalculate the time available and run out of daylight while still climbing.
  • Anchors that have not been properly rigged can give way, causing you to fall.

Injury and death statistics for rock climbing

Rock climbing is the world’s fastest-growing adventure sport, so accident statistics will no doubt grow along with its popularity. But if you look at research carried out over the past few years, some trends are already apparent.

According to a 2014 study entitled Accidents in North American Mountaineering, the biggest contributing causes to climbing accidents in the US between 1951 and 2012 were: climbing without a rope, exceeding one’s abilities, and not having adequate protection and equipment. The major types of injuries incurred were: fractures, lacerations, The major types of injuries incurred were: fractures, lacerations, sprains and bruises. As far as fatalities are concerned, a study by the Rocky Mountain Rescue Group (RMRG) in Boulder, Colorado found that the majority of climbing fatalities in Eldorado Canyon State Park occurred as a result of lead fall, lowering off ropes and rock falls.

What information will an insurer require?

There are a number of questions an insurer may ask you in relation to your rock climbing activities. Your answers will help determine the level of risk you represent. They may ask you about the following:

  • Your training and level of experience
  • Your age and level of physical fitness
  • Any climbing licenses or qualifications you have
  • Any memberships of climbing associations or clubs
  • How many times you climb in a year
  • Whether you participate in competitions or record attempts
  • Whether you are a recreational or professional climber
  • The type and extent of safety equipment you use

What specific factors can affect premiums and type of cover?

Specific factors that may affect how much you pay, how you are covered, and if you can be covered at all can include the following:

  • The type of climbing you do. Rock climbing is a term that encompasses the entire spectrum from trail hiking and bouldering right up to canyoning and free climbing (climbing unroped).
  • Whether you climb alone or with a group. Climbing alone is considered highly dangerous, as there is no one to help you if you get into trouble.
  • How often you climb. Some insurers impose maximum limits on the amount of climbs you can do in a year.
  • How high you climb. Mountaineering can involve climbing at high altitudes, where altitude sickness can be a risk factor.

Three ways you can be covered

Most providers will offer rock climbers life insurance as long as the level of risk is not too high. The three types of cover they will normally offer are as follows:

  • Premium loading. You will be charged a percentage loading of anywhere from 25% to 300% above the standard premium cost, depending on your level of risk.
  • Exclusion. Rock climbing will be excluded from your cover. This means that any death or injury related to participation in rock climbing will not be covered by your policy, although you’ll still receive the other benefits of life insurance protection.
  • Normal insurance. In some cases you’ll be charged as normal; for example, if you only participate in indoor rock climbing with harnesses.

Am I covered professionally?

Most insurers will not cover you if you climb in a professional capacity such as a rock climbing guide or climbing instructor. This is because the more often you climb, the higher the statistical likelihood that you will have an accident.

Can I get specialized cover for rock climbing?

If you are a professional rock climber, you will need to find a specialty insurer that is prepared to cover you. Employing an insurance broker might be the best way to search for and identify this type of cover.

Find out if you can get cover

Picture: Shutterstock

Maurice Thach

An insurance researcher and writer for who loves finding an answer to the question "Am I covered for ________?" Maurice has also completed a Tier 1 Life Insurance and a Tier 2 General Insurance Certification under ASIC's Regulatory Guide 146. This means he can confidently provide general advice for life insurance and non-life insurance products.

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