We are sometimes asked whether we are able to obtain travel insurance on behalf of our clients. However, we have found over the years that climbers prefer to be in direct contact with the insurers, as in the event of a claim, there is quite a lot of passing information back and forth, and this is generally most easily managed directly, rather than via an intermediary.
That said, in the event of an insurance claim, we are usually asked to provide a company letter detailing what went wrong on the mountain and why it was in the claimant’s best interests that the particular action (such as evacuation) was taken, from which the claim is derived.
When obtaining insurance, it is recommended that you get confirmation direct from the insurer, of exactly what is covered. This is because even though a certain policy may have covered a certain contingency historically, and a friend or travel company may have recommended that insurer or specific policy for that reason, the insurer may have decided subsequently to no longer cover that contingency. This often happens when a large number of claims are made from within such contingencies and the insurer decides that increasing the premium cost to itigate against the increased risk of payouts from is likely to have the effect of reducing purchases of that premium.
When securing an insurance policy therefore, probably the most important question to ask therefore, is:
Does this policy definitely cover me to 6,000m altitude (since Kilimanjaro’s summit is of course, 5,895m), and if so, what are the exclusions that apply at high altitude and what is the threshold beyond which these exclusions apply?
Additionally, while it is generally faster (and therefore safer) to initiate an evacuation ourselves on foot than to wait at what may have become an unsafe elevation for a patient, for a helicopter to arrive, nonetheless, since there is now a helicopter rescue service based quite close to Kilimanjaro, it is also worth asking the insurer to confirm that in the event it is deemed necessary, that helicopter rescue is indeed included within the policy.
Again, while you will need to satisfy yourself with respect to what is currently covered within the policy that the insurer proposes to sell you, generally, we have found World Nomads to offer the most suitable insurance cover for Kilimanjaro. US citizens may also wish to consider Berkshire Hathaway's "AdrenalineCare" insurance.
Some insurers do better for persons of certain nationalities only, so the following insurers are also worth looking at. However, we would reiterate again, that before securing a policy you confirm with the insurer that the premium that they're selling you does indeed include cover for trekking up to 6,000 metres altitude. And if you're ascending via the Western Breach, you'll need further confirmation that when using ropes and helmets (if you choose to bring these - which is recommended) you are still included:
In the past Team Kilimanjaro advised that there was usually no advantage in securing helicopter rescue cover when obtaining an insurance premuim, as there are no fixed-wing landing sites anywhere high on the mountain, and until 2016 the helicopter collection points on Kilimanjaro were as follows:
The inability of Nairobi-based helicopters to reach the likely points at which evacuation is most likely therefore meant that it was highly likely that our staff - working in concert with the KINAPA wardens stationed at the huts on most routes - could actually get a trekker who had succumbed to a life-threatening condition to a place of safety, in less time than it would take for a helicopter to effect a rescue.
However, In 2016 a new Search and Rescue company was established in Moshi that is now capable of landing both at Kibo and Barafu Huts. In the event of an evacuation being necessary, if the trekker has helicopter rescue cover included in their insurance premium, they should disclose details of their premium to their guide and he will call +255 677 12 12 12 and advise the SAR control room that evacuation is necessary, and will then coordinate his crew to evacuate the climber to Barafu - if the point at which the evacuation is deemed to be necessary is higher than Stella Point, or to Kibo Huts, if the point at which the evacuation becomes necessary is between Gilman's Point and Stella Point, or beneath Gilman's point on the assault On TK Lemosho or TK Rongai routes.
Weather premitting, we will then await rescue by helicopter from Moshi - assuming the helicopter is not alteady otherwise engaged. In the event that the control advises the guide either that evacuation is unsafe because of limited visibility or high winds, the trekking group must copperate fully with the guide's decision to continue the evacuation on foot.