Life insurance for rock climbers—seems oddly specific, right?
Well, there’s nothing quite like the moment you start questioning your choice of hobby or contemplating your existence when hanging out over thousands of feet of space.
Having the protection of insurance is good.
How Do the Insurance Companies View Rock Climbing?
Rock climbing is a sport that involves climbing up rock faces of varying difficulty using bolts and other equipment with which to make this ascent safer. Even though many climbers are very experienced in how to keep themselves safe, accidents do happen. Rocks can break off, bolts can come loose, sharp rocks can tear ropes. Sometimes simple mistakes happen, like turning an ankle on the walk into the crag.
There are a ton of different kinds of rock climbing, each with its own risks. Climbing in a gym is generally safe, but injuries can occur there just as they can occur outside. Bouldering, or climbing short routes with no ropes or harness, can also lead to injuries and falls. Rock climbing of all kinds carries an inherent risk of falling simply because of the nature of the sport.
Many life insurance companies have specialized policies for rock climbers.
Other kinds of insurance can also be purchased for international rock climbing trips, annual insurance can be purchased through mountaineering or climbing organizations, or even just low-level coverage for the climbing you do on a regular basis at home. All of these kinds of insurance are important for keeping you safe should an accident happen while climbing.
The American Alpine Club maintains statistics that show an average of 25 deaths per year attributed to rock climbing. While the fatality rate is not very high, it is something the insurance carriers do need to take into account when assessing risk.
A researcher from the Center for Research Injury and Policy in Ohio published a paper on the rise of indoor rock climbing injuries as more and more people seek to try out this adrenaline-filled sport. The study shows that most of the injuries that occur when rock climbing are preventable; the belayer wasn’t holding the rope tight enough, which resulted in a higher fall for the climber, for instance. Other simple mistakes can be made, like missing a hold or underestimating the distance between moves.
Falls, slips, and accidents happen, which makes having life insurance as a rock climber that much more important. Life insurance companies want to ensure that their policyholders, despite their somewhat risky hobbies, are covered for the situations that might arise over the course of their life participating in this wonderful sport.
Rock Climbing By the Numbers
Q: What are the most common kinds of rock climbing injuries?
A: According to the study, the most common rock climbing injuries were ankle sprains and strains. If a climber misses a hold while climbing inside or outside they are most likely to land on their feet if they hit the ground. The second most common injuries were foot fractures and skin lacerations. Concussions are rare, as climbers wear helmets for protection.
Q: What kind of rock climbing is considered the most dangerous?
A: While outdoor climbing may seem the riskiest, the rise of gym-based indoor climbing is actually bringing on more injuries. As an increasing number of gyms offer rock climbing as a recreational opportunity, beginners are learning to climb and may sustain an injury related to their new activity.
Outdoor climbing risks include falling, both on the ground and off the rock; abseiling off the end of the rope; and equipment failure. Trad climbing, or climbing with metal tools put in the rock as protection, can be more dangerous than sports climbing, in which you carry less gear and clip your rope to preexisting bolts in the rock face. However, sport climbing bolts can also post a danger risk.
Q: Who is most at risk of hurting themselves when climbing?
A: Part of the rock climbing learning curve is practicing how to be safe; if no one has ever shown you safe practices, you won’t know how to keep yourself or your climbing buddy out of harm’s way. Experienced climbers sometimes don’t remember to check their own or their partner’s gear when climbing, which can result in an unexpected accident.
In the study by the Center for Research Injury and Policy, men were found to be more likely to break a bone after a rock climbing fall than women were.
Q: Where do most rock climbing injuries happen?
A: This question is tough to answer, as there haven’t been any studies comparing indoor climbing injuries to those that occur outside. Injuries are most likely to happen because of a fall, whether you are at a gym rock climbing a wall or scaling a 100-foot rock face outside.
Q: How can rock climbing be made safer?
A: Rock climbing can be made safer by learning exactly how to be safe and how to manage risks well. Rock climbers should know their gear well and where it is best placed in the rock to protect them against a fall. If there is little gear placement in the rocks, minimizing the risk of a dangerous fall is essential. Rock climbers fall, but there are ways to do it safely.
Secondly, rock climbing can be made safer with experience. From the time you climb the indoor wall for the first time to the moment you successfully lead your first trad climb, those you are learning from should teach you safe climbing skills.
Rock climbing can be made safer by using the proper protection, checking your gear to make sure it isn’t worn out or frayed, checking the equipment and knots of your climbing partner, and always remaining aware of your surroundings.
Cost of Life Insurance for Rock Climbers
No two climbers are the same so it’s important to shop around to pay the lowest premium based on your specific situation.
A regular outdoor climber can expect to pay $3.00-$5.00 per thousand of coverage in what is known as a “flat extra”.
For example, on a $500,000 policy, you might pay $1,500-$2,500 in additional premium per year for the right to have your hobby covered in your policy.
You can avoid paying the flat extra by choosing an exclusion in your policy that states that you will not be covered should you die while climbing. Risky? Sure, but it’s important to know all the options.
You may want to consider policy layering to save money.
If you find the flat extra charge too expensive, you can consider purchasing 2 policies, 1 that covers rock climbing and another that excludes it. Here is a comparison for a 30-year-old non-smoking male at preferred rates on a 20-year term policy for 500k.
as 1 policy:
He’ll pay $343 annual premium for the base policy. Let’s say the flat extra for his rock climbing is $3.00 per 1k in coverage. This adds $1,500 in premium for a total of $1,843 in premium.
as 2 policies:
- He’ll pay $203 in premium for a 250K policy that EXCLUDES rock climbing.
- He’ll pay an additional $750 for the flat extra on a 2nd 250K policy that INCLUDES rock climbing for a total of $953.
By splitting the policy in 2, the premium drops from $1,843 to $953, almost a 50% savings!
Now, to be completely clear, if he were to die from rock climbing, only 1 policy (250K) would pay out but if he dies from any other cause, both policies would pay in full (500k).
What Questions Will They Ask Me?
Since no two climbers are the same, the insurance company will want to find out more about your hobby in order to charge you the right premium. This is a good thing for you so don’t be scared.
Annapurna mountain in Nepal has a 41% fatality rate for those brave souls who attempt to bag this peak.
If you only do indoor climbing once per month, don’t you think you should pay less? Of course! Well, these questions will help determine what is fair.
- How often do you climb?
- Do you hold any certifications or special training?
- What is your rock climbing experience?
- What height of rocks do you climb?
- At what elevation do you climb?
- Do you climb alone or with a guide or group?
- What type of safety precautions and equipment do you use?
Always remember that premiums can vary widely between insurance companies.
That’s why it’s SO important that you understand how the different carriers might view your personal rock climbing situation. Shopping around will result in you getting the best life insurance coverage for your needs at an affordable premium.
Please keep in mind that underwriting guidelines can and DO vary greatly between carriers and this is often a complicated maze for consumers to navigate.
The secret to getting the lowest rate is placing you in a policy with the company who views you in the most favorable light.
The truth is while the quote engine is a great place to start, if you are applying for life insurance as someone who enjoys rock climbing, it’s critical that you work with a broker who understands the complicated guidelines and will fight on your behalf to get the lowest rate for your situation.
We are one of the rare independent brokers that only sells life insurance so we’ve gotten pretty darn good at it.
If you are ready to get started, please fill out a quote request or always feel free to contact us with any questions.
We are here to help and will never pressure you in any way.
“Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing” –Barry Finlay, Kilimanjaro, and Beyond