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Life insurance for rock climbers
Many insurers consider rock climbing as an extreme sport — so expect higher rates.
If you count rock climbing among your hobbies, it’s a good idea to get life insurance in case anything happens. You should prepare to pay more in premiums — but you can keep costs in check by modifying your hobby.
Can I get life insurance as a rock climber?
Yes. While most insurers view rock climbing as a high-risk activity or extreme sport, it’s just one of many factors involved in the underwriting process. Premiums are typically more expensive for rock climbers than for people who stay planted on the ground. Altogether, you could be looking at paying between several hundred dollars and $1,000 each year above your regular premiums.
What if I only do indoor rock climbing?
If you wear a harness and only climb indoors at a gym, you probably won’t be charged extra.
How does rock climbing affect my life insurance rates?
Some insurers are more lenient than others. When assessing your application, your insurer will look at a range of factors related to your rock climbing:
- 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.
Life insurance and extreme sports
I rock climb professionally. Will this impact my rates?
Insurers may choose not to cover you at all if you climb in a professional capacity. This is because the more often you climb, the higher the statistical likelihood that you will have an accident.
How can I get a lower life insurance rate as a rock climber?
There are a few ways to reduce your premium:
- Add a rider to exclude death while climbing. Some providers will insure you at regular rates, as long as they don’t have to pay the death benefit if you die while climbing. Ask an agent about whether that’s an option.
- Climb shorter mountains. The higher the rock, the higher the risk. Staying closer to the ground may result in lower rates.
- Limit the amount of time spent climbing. More time spent climbing leads to a riskier profile. Cutting down on time spent up in the air may equal lower premiums.
- Mention certifications or special training. It’s good to show you’re qualified and have extra safety knowledge to match your adrenaline cravings.
- Equip yourself for safety. An underwriter might call to ask what kind of safety equipment you climb with. Arming yourself with the best tools for safety can reduce your overall risk.
- Approach easier peaks. Your insurer might ask about your experience level, and what kinds of mountains you climb. A history of tamer climbs could help lower rates.
- Buy two policies. While you’ve got to be honest in both applications, consider buying one big benefit policy with a rider that excludes death while climbing, and another smaller benefit policy that includes death while climbing. Your loved ones will be covered regardless, though you’ll only pay a flat fee on the cheaper policy.
- Reduce the scope or coverage of your benefits. Reducing your overall benefit amount can lower the cost of premiums. Consider what specific types of benefits you frequently use versus benefits that are less related to your climbing preferences and habits.
- Improve your overall health. If you can’t imagine adjusting your climbing habits, it may be smart to think about other factors within your control. For example, eating healthier and cleaning up bad habits could influence rates too.
Keep in mind that a rock climber will be viewed in the best light by an agent that’s schooled in rock climbing vocabulary or a provider that specializes in high-risk coverage.
What information will my 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
- The type of terrain on which you climb (is it well-worn with trails and nearby help, or is it rarely scaled?)
- The geographical location where you’re climbing (which country/continent etc.)
- How many times you climb in a year
- Participation in competitions or record attempts
- Whether you are a recreational or professional climber
- The type and extent of safety equipment you use
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The risks of rock climbing
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 knock you from the cliff face.
- Climbing ropes can be compromised and possibly severed on sharp rock edges.
- You could developing hypoxia due to a lack of oxygen at higher elevations
- You could become temporarily blinded by the sun, heavy rain or the snow
- 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, despite the scarcity of data, some trends have become apparent over the years.
Predictably, more people die via mountain, rock and ice climbing – particularly high-altitude climbing – than those who die from mountain hiking, trekking or mountain biking. The risk of dying increases as the height of the climb increases. Lead climbing and climbing on snow- or ice-covered terrain further increases the likelihood of death.
The Canadian Alpine Club reports a least 1 death per year related to ice climbing, and, between 1997 and 2017, 20 rock climbers died while climbing the Austrian Alps. Between 1996 and 2003, 25 deaths have been recorded on Mount Kilimanjaro; given that the number of climbers has increased since then, the present-day mortality rate is likely higher.
According to a 2014 study, Accidents in North American Mountaineering, the biggest contributing causes to climbing accidents in the US between 1951 and 2012 were: climbing without a rope, overestimating one’s abilities, and not having adequate protection and equipment. 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. From 1998-2011, 23 people died from rock climbing in this park alone.
The price of life insurance for rock climbing is determined by how much time you’re up near the sky, as well as your skill level and overall safety. Compare life insurance companies who specialize in covering high risk individuals to find the best rate.
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