Export date: Sun Dec 15 20:22:38 2019 / +0000 GMT

Cathy O’Dowd

Cathy O'Dowd

The first woman in the world to climb Mount Everest, the world's highest mountain, from both its north and south sides.  Her first ascent of Everest happened in the midst of the chaotic events that form of the basis of the ‘true story' behind the Hollywood movie Everest.

Cathy, who grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa, has climbed ever since leaving school. She was completing her Masters degree in Journalism, while working as university lecturer, when she saw a newspaper advert for a place on the 1st South African Everest Expedition. Six months later she was the first South African to summit Everest. Three years later she became the first woman in the world to climb the mountain from both sides. Finally she made one last expedition to Everest to try a new route on the Kangshung face. She has written a book about her Everest experiences, Just For The Love Of It.

The years she spent in the Himalaya were for her a degree ‘in living'. The insights she discovered about herself, and about individuals and teams under intense stress in the face of overwhelming challenge, are ones she has been sharing with her corporate audiences ever since. Her stories touch on themes of importance to anyone trying to run successful projects and get the best out of people. Cathy's most challenging Himalayan epic was as part of team forging a new route on an 8000 metre peak. Although Cathy herself did not reach the summit, two of her teammates did, doing the first ascent of Nanga Parbat via the Mazeno ridge, and winning the prestigious Piolet d'Or for their

achievement. She has turned this experience into a fascinating interactive case-study of successful project execution of truly innovative goals.

Cathy has been a professional speaker for over 20 years and has presented her message to companies in 44 countries on six continents. She is a Fellow of the Professional Speaking Association of UK/Ireland, who have given her their highest award, the Professional Speaking Award of Excellence. Her spring 2019 expedition is a ski ascent of Mt Steele, a 5000 metre peak in the Canadian Yukon.

Cathy is actively involved with charities focused on female empowerment, notably the RwenzoriWomen for Health project in Uganda, and the Astraia Female Leadership Foundation in Germany. She lives in Andorra, in the Pyrenees mountains, from where she pursues her speaking career, and explores the mountains of Europe. In her free time she does technical rock-climbing and ski-mountaineering. Her day-to-day adventures as a speaker and mountaineer can be followed on Instagram @CathyODowd.

Cathy O'Dowd selected Client Testimonials from 2018

Cathy's professionalism was first class, not only at the event but also in the build up to the event. The presentation Cathy gave was greatly appreciated .... I would strongly recommend her as a professional speaker.  Event Organiser, European Retail Forum

The participants loved your presentation, the story and the structure of it it! So thank you very much again for having contributed to the success of the conference!
  Event organiser, Arendt.

You did a wonderful job, and your inspiration to us was very well received!
I was very impressed with the decision making interaction. Your team decision making insights were very helpful combined with the challenge to the group to be bold and do what has never been done before!...The participants really responded to your story. Decision Making Officer at Daimler AG

I have received a lot positive feedback.... People felt drawn into your story, very engaged and found it thought provoking. I would not hesitate to recommend this to anyone. 
CEO of Voice Norge

A huge thank you for injecting some much needed excitement and laughs at ProcureCon Europe.  A fantastic presentation that more than fitted what I wanted and the feedback has been very positive. Organiser ProcureCon EU

What we liked was that you linked your personal story to our BearingPoint business and project  culture. The audience had the chance to realize that also in our world teaming, making mistakes and diversity is very important.  Senior Manager, BearingPoint.



  • Everest: in Search of Peak Performance

  • Leadership

  • Dealing with Adversity

  • Anticipating Team Conflict and Making it Work to Your Advantage

  • Understanding the Growth Cycle of your Team