Cathy O'Dowd

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

Cathy O'Dowd photo

Cathy O’Dowd is 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 the basis of the ‘true story’ behind the 2015 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. 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 on or around Everest 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 has been a professional speaker for nearly 20 years and has presented her message to companies in over 40 countries on six continents.

Cathy remains a committed adventurer. Her last Himalayan epic involved teaming up with two top British alpinists and three Sherpas to attempt 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.

Her next expedition will be a ski ascent of Mount Logan, the second highest peak in North America, in spring of 2016. In her free time she does technical rock-climbing and ski-mountaineering.

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 15 years and has presented her message to companies in over 30 countries on five 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.


Click below to watch video footage of Cathy O'Dowd. To enquire further about Cathy O'Dowd for corporate and private bookings, please click here or call us on +44 (0)1372 361 004.


Considering booking Cathy O'Dowd for your event? You may find the following client testimonials and comments helpful. To enquire further about Cathy O'Dowd for corporate and private bookings, click here or call us on +44 (0)1372 361 004.

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.

It was a great inspirational presentation. I have really enjoyed listening to you, Everybody was really impressed.

VP Marketing & Sales, Sara Lee International Foodservice, ANTALYA.

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

Below you'll find products by Cathy O'Dowd which may be available for purchase. Click the image to view on Amazon’s website. Clients often like to purchase books and other merchandise as autographed give-aways at events where Cathy O'Dowd is appearing. For bulk purchases, please speak with the Booking Agent handling your event.

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Cathy O'Dowd

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

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