Member's story: How BMC insurance saved me from the Nepal earthquake

Posted by Sarah Stirling on 29/06/2015
Sharna King on the right
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Sharna King was climbing in Nepal when May's earthquake struck. After surviving terrifying ordeals both in the mountains and down in Namche Bazaar, she was desperate to get home but had no idea how to go about it. BMC Travel Insurance team to the rescue! Here Sharna explains what happened next, and why she's now sure we offer the best mountain and climbing insurance there is.

Sharna: As an avid trad climber and alpinist, I've always chosen BMC Travel Insurance. I felt safer knowing an organisation that understands the mountains was protecting me while I was in pursuit of my next summit. After what happened to me in Nepal in May, I definitely feel the BMC insurance offers the best coverage there is for British mountaineers. I wanted to tell my story to spread the word and say thank you for the incredible service.

I regularly climb in the Himalaya (every six months), and was hiking up to meet my climbing guide and bag my fourth high-altitude summit, Lobuche West, when the earthquake hit. I was one of the lucky ones. We narrowly missed a huge landslide. Witnessing people covered in blood and badly injured as we continued up to Namche, I  realised the magnitude of what was happening.

We made it to Namche, where over the following two days I experienced what it felt like to run for your life. Being inside a building in a confined space where everything is shaking and the noise of a stampede of people running and screaming to get outside is truly terrifying. This happened several times over the next days and nights.

We had emergency bags packed to run out of the building with. On one occasion, as I was running down the stairs of the lodge and met the outside air, I honestly thought the building was collapsing behind me as I ran, it was making so much noise and shaking so violently. Thankfully the building didn't collapse, but I really felt like I had escaped within an inch of my life.

During all the dramas, tremors, and the running, my climbing partner and I were trying to make the right decisions on what to do next. We decided to get as much intel as we could about the higher passes: were they safe? How was the damage higher up? How many were coming down? What was happening at Lukla with the flights?

Finally we made a joint decision with our guide to head up, as we felt it was safe and we wanted to avoid the dramas of all the climbers and hikers trying to get out of Lukla to Kathmandu.

However, after a couple of nights in a deserted Dingboche, I'd had enough. I just wanted to get home. We headed down. And that's when I made contact with Jim at the BMC. I've never met Jim, but he feels like my friend as I always end up speaking to him when I need some BMC support or advice when I'm abroad!

As usual, Jim came straight back to me and made sure that Specialty Assist were alerted straight away [Specialty Assist is the first port of call in an emergency if you've got BMC Travel Insurance]. Immediately, I had calls from the Nepalese government asking whether I needed evacuation and if I was hurt.

Specialty Assist kept in touch with me as we hiked down to Lukla, and as soon as I reached Kathmandu, I alerted them and they immediately began working on getting me out of Nepal and back home to the UK.

We touched down in Kathmandu at around 9am on Monday 4 May. By 2pm, I had options on my flight home: go today, or go tomorrow. I chose to go that day, and by 9.35pm the same day I was flying home to London.

I cannot fault the BMC Insurance service. Everything was done for me: I did not even have to ring my airline. There was absolutely no hassle and stress, I was kept continually informed by phone and did not have to ring and chase for updates. The whole process was seamless. Their priority was just to get me home as soon as possible.

As my climb trip was cancelled, I submitted a claim for trip curtailment. This has been processed and paid out with no hassle, no questions and no stress. I feel like the BMC really know me, and this means so much to me. I am a person to the BMC, not a claim number.

Climbing mountains can be a dangerous sport but to have the feeling that I am protected by the BMC - it makes me feel safer. I would never choose to be insured by anyone else.

Incidentally, my climbing partner who chose cheaper insurance from another company for our climb is still battling to get her money back for our trip cancellation. Need I say more! Thank you BMC for getting me back safe and being there for me when I really needed you!

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GET COVERED: Get covered with BMC Travel Insurance

BMC Travel Insurance is designed by climbers and mountaineers, for climbing, walking and mountaineering. 

  • 24-hour emergency assistance is just a phone call away. Specialty Assist (+44 20 7902 7405) is the first port of call in an emergency. The number will be on your BMC Travel Insurance policy card

MORE ABOUT: Sharna

Sharna is currently raising money to send to the Pioneer Foundation (www.pfnepal.org) in Nepal and specifically to help rebuild the Shree School in a Gorkha village (see images below). She has raised over £700 so far. Please help by making a donation here: www.gofundme.com/nepalgorkharelief

Shree school in ruins

The school children

#BMC4Nepal

BID NOW: in our #BMC4Nepal online charity auction to help the people of Nepal

WATCH: our #BMC4Nepal launch message featuring Doug Scott, Chris Bonington, Rehan Siddiqui and Leo Houlding on BMC TV


Are you serious?

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Years of experience

We've been insuring adventurers like you for over 30 years. That's why all of our policies come with:

  • 24-hour emergency assistance helpline
  • £10 million emergency medical cover
  • £100,000 search, rescue and recovery cover
  • £10,000 personal accident cover
  • £5,000 cancellation cover
  • £2,500 baggage cover

WATCH: BMC Insurance: built for the mountains

Want to know more? READ: 5 reasons why you need BMC Travel Insurance


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