Critical Illness for Rock climbers

In short, critical illness insurance is a financial safety net designed to provide a lump-sum payment if you are diagnosed with a specific illness.

Critical illness refers to a severe health condition that significantly impairs one’s ability to work and lead a normal life. These conditions often require extensive medical treatment and prolonged recovery periods. Critical illness insurance is designed to ease the financial burden by providing a lump-sum payment upon diagnosis of a covered illness. The payout is often used for medical expenses, modifications to the home, debt repayment – commonly a mortgage – or simply to cover day-to-day livings costs whilst you are focusing on recovery.

Critical Illnesses & Rock climbers

The range of illnesses covered by critical illness insurance policies can vary between insurers, some offer a broader range in exchange for a higher premium, but in general most UK insurers cover a core set of conditions including:

  • Cancer: Varying stages and types
  • Heart attack: This is one I thought could be worth pointing out for rock climbers. Some of the fittest people in the world have heart conditions. When you are pushing yourself it can increase the risk of a heart attack.
  • Stroke: Again, this is not too disimilar to a heart attack.
  • Paralysis of limbs
  • Blindness: Permanent and irreversible

These policies may also cover less common but equally debilitating conditions, ensuring a broad safety net.

Claim Statistics

In 2023 Aviva paid out over 91% of claims on critical illness. Around 6% were not claimed due to not meeting the definition and 2% where the application was submitted with errors to the point where cover would not have been provided if those errors had not occured.

The same year L&G paid out 93% of Critical illness claims. They say they youngest claiment was 22 and the average age of a claiment was 48 years old.

Just some words around not meeting the definition… I used to work for a life office (it has since been bought up and merged etc). We once had a claim for a critical illness policy from someone who broker their arm. That had to go down as a decline due to not meeting the definition… So whilst we all read stories of technicalities, they are not all that close.

The Importance for Rock Climbers

Many of the conditions covered on a critical illness policy are not really any more applicable to a rock climber than anyone else but due to the nature of the sport, especially outside, climbers are exposed to a higher risk of certain injuries and conditions. Some of the critical illnesses specific to climbing are listed below:

  • Heart Attack: The physical exertion involved when rock climbing can sometimes trigger cardiovascular events, especially in those with underlying conditions. Heart attacks can involve lengthy recovery and rehabilitation periods which the insurance payout can help support medical and living costs.
  • Coma: A severe fall or rockfall accident could result in traumatic brain injuries, leading to a coma. The financial strain of long-term care, loss of income and modifications to daily living can be substantial.
  • Head Injuries: Climbing accidents can lead to serious head injuries with long-term consequences such as cognitive impairment which could prevent a return to full time work. The lump-sum payment from critical illness insurance can help cover rehabilitation and costs of daily living.
  • Loss of Use of Limbs: Falls or accidents during climbing can result in permanent damage to limbs such as paralysis. This loss can dramatically change a person’s life. A payout to make home modifications, fund ongoing care or help to cover daily living expenses will help reduce the financial burden.
  • Spinal Damage: Spinal injuries are another severe risk associated with rock climbing. Injuries can lead to partial or complete paralysis requiring extensive and costly medical treatment and rehabilitation. Critical illness insurance can provide financial support during this challenging time.

This highlights the importance of finding an insurance provider who will cover this sport in the unfortunate event an accident were to occur. After all, why take out insurance that doesn’t fully cover your pursuits and interests?


When conducting research on Critical Illness Insurance for rock climbers, much like with Life Insurance, we found that insurance companies can have varying stances on what they are willing to include as well as exclude. The three disciplines that there were key differences on were Bouldering, Traditional (Trad) climbing and Sport climbing.

Almost all insurers would cover indoor climbing at their standard rate! However, when it came to climbing outside the differences really started to show. It was evident across insurers that Trad climbing was seen as riskier – something I would think most climbers would agree with. It would often attract a premium rating or an exclusion. But what about Sport climbing as that is also involving heights? Surprisingly, some insurers were happy to have this included in their standard rate. Others would add a premium rating whereas some would exclude it past a certain height or technical grade. The consensus on bouldering outside was that it was likely to be at standard rate but would be subject to underwriting dependant on height – I suspect they want to add an exclusion for people who often climb highball boulders.

How can we help?

When writing these articals, we did a lot of research with the providers. We did this to ensure we understood the insurance market and to be confident we could offer you the products that will aim to protect you during the time where you are at an increased risk.

We understand rock climbing, we have been doing that for many years.

But we also understand insurance. We can talk you through everything, it might not be the most interest conversation ever though. Or we can find out what you do, and explain where it will cover you and where it wont cover you – sum it up in a nutshell for you and make the conversation a little less boring and much more specific to you.