Cathy O'Dowd

First woman to climb Mount Everest from both the north and south sides

Cathy O'Dowd | NMP Live

Cathy O’Dowd is the first woman in the world to climb Mount Everest 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.

Cathy is actively involved with charities focused on female empowerment, notably the Rwenzori Women 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.

Speech Topics

Cathy O'Dowd has been a professional motivational speaker for over 20 years and has presented her message to companies in over 40 countries on six continents.

Cathy draws on this wide-ranging experience of teams under acute pressure attempting overwhelming challenges to create her corporate presentations. Her stories touch on themes of importance to anyone trying to get the best out of people.

Her main speech topics include:
Reaching New Heights – Leadership & teamwork from the slopes of Mount Everest
Think Like An Explorer – how to do what has never been done before
Brand Everest: 1st ascent vs fake ascent – being authentic and building a great reputation

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.


I have hired over 250 speakers for corporate clients' events globally. When it comes to finding authentic content with metaphors and tangible evidence of lessons for individual teams and leaders there are few better than Cathy. When it comes to inspirational delivery and a room full of leaders where you can hear a pin drop as she shares her story you know you have a hit on your hands. A joy to work with. Spot on timing as agreed. Wonderful visual support. Superb. The end !!

Vice President, orporate Marketing & Communications, manroland AG, OFFENBACH.

The response has been overwhelmingly positive... the audience found your story thoroughly compelling and the way in which you weaved in our messages was superb. I can only express my sincere thanks on behalf of everyone here for helping to really bring the session to life.

Consumer Marketing Manager, Allergan Medical, TENERIFE.

Thanks for a fantastic job last week. The team really enjoyed the presentation as well as the time you spent with each of us talking through your experiences. We were able to fit a lot of the themes into the rest of the week - especially the focus on ambition. The combination of fantastic pictures, your personal style and a simply amazing story provided for an experience the team will not forget.

Vice President Global Inside Sales, SAP America, BARCELONA.

You did an excellent job in sharing your experiences in a high-performing team and provided some really good insights.

Head of Marketing Emerging Growth Markets, Novartis Oncology, ISTANBUL.

Cathy was the keynote speaker at a recent ADP client event. Her achievements are incredible but what’s really fascinating is her human story of overcoming prejudice and bias on a stage where poor judgement costs lives. It’s inspiring story of overcoming barriers and setbacks which is as relevant in the workplace as it is atop the world’s highest peak. Our attendees loved and learned in equal measure. If you can catch Cathy between adventures it’s very worthwhile.

Jeff Phipps - Managing Director, ADP UK & Ireland.

Great job yesterday. I think everyone was truly impressed.

Credit Suisse, WARSAW.

It was a pleasure having you on the programme again, the participants were truly impressed.

Programme Manager, Executive Education London Business School, LONDON.

The conference went well. Cathy O'Dowd did a fantastic job and we had a positive feedback from all.

Vice President Sales & Marketing, CSC, SHANGHAI.

Books and DVDs

Clients often ask about purchasing books for giveaways and delegate packs. Below you’ll find a selection of products by Cathy O'Dowd. Click the images to view on Amazon's website. For bulk orders, please speak with your Booking Agent.

To book Cathy O'Dowd, please submit an online enquiry, send us an email or speak with one of our friendly booking agents on +44 (0)1372 361 004.

I was very pleased with the service I received from NMP Live, the agent was very helpful and professional. I will definitely look to NMP Live in the future.
Nicole Hardaker, EAIE Conference Programme Coordinator
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