For my trip to Pakistan last summer, I’d signed up for the Global Rescue travel insurance in addition to my “normal” membership. I’ve been using this setup for most of my expeditions, since the membership covers helicopter rescue (a very important aspect especially in rural Pakistan) and the travel insurance covers pretty much everything else (though they refused to pay for my camera that was stolen in Argentina). For the Broad Peak + K2 expedition it wasn’t even a cheap endeavor with the travel insurance clocking in at almost $9000. However it included “interrupt for any reason” coverage, meaning it should pay up for pretty much any reason.

View from a little above crampon point on Broad Peak

Since I ended up interrupting that trip after our failed summit on Broad Peak, I of course filed a claim. K2 would’ve been amazing (especially considering the success rate last summer), but the guide was an absolute asshole who I wouldn’t trust with a cup of hot tea let alone my life (which is a very real consideration on K2). I filed a claim with Global Rescue shortly after I returned to Japan (and was out of mandatory quarantine due to “Pakistan”), and it’s been quite a(n unpleasant) ride since.

First of all the reaction times are horrible. They respond after a week with some email that reads automated about responding properly some time later, only so that “some time later” ends up being well beyond their promised 10 business days rather along the lines of 20. That means maybe one exchange of email in a whole month which is anything but speedy.

Jagged peaks next to the Baltoro glacier

Not to mention they’re trying really hard not to pay. They keep demanding bank or credit card statements for payments that I’ve provided other written proof about. I can only assume this is because there are multiple currencies involved: my credit card statements are in JPY, the expedition itself is billed in EUR and the insurance is using USD. Nonetheless it’s a huge pain in the ass, especially because my bank is one of the least “modern” banks in Japan (and considering how out-of-date all of them are that’s quite a statement) and I’m not even sure I could coerce my bank to provide me records of my international transactions of the past 3 years (which would be necessary apparently). My credit card records are also in Japanese, so I kept asking if that’s fine or I need to translate it somehow, but of course this question was ignored as well.

Then they came back with the conclusion that they can’t pay in the end, because I failed to provide papers. The email exchanges were usually like described as above: 1, I ask what’s going on since they’ve been silent for so long, 2, I get an automated response saying they forwarded my message to the “claims team”, 3, after a few more weeks I get an email demanding bank statements for a few items completely ignoring my original question or the fact that they didn’t need bank statements for any of the other items, 4, I explain that I’ve already provided written proof from the providers about the payments and ask if the bank statement is absolutely necessary since it’s nigh impossible to get. Repeat.

I of course appealed their decision and expressed my frustration quite harshly about their process. Four more months later they finally came to the conclusion that indeed I provided all the necessary proof already (duh) and “reimbursement will follow.” So I guess all’s well that ends well, but how about no. It took them five months to come to the conclusion that I didn’t provide the documents I provided and then five more until I actually saw the money on my account. Some point along the way it even occurred to me that if interrupting an expedition is such a pain in the ass I should’ve just sucked it up and gone on K2 risking dying…

On the other hand, they did pay in the end and my case (multiple currencies, payment methods and countries involved) might have made things complicated. Also Global Rescue is still the only high altitude insurance company I know of, thought I’m a bit concerned what my premium will be like after this little adventure (as I do plan to go back to high altitude, even if not this year). Let’s just hope things go perfectly and I won’t need to interact with them again…