Rachel Colenso

South Africa's first certified female mountain guide and explorer

Rachel Colenso | NMP Live

South African-born Rachel Colenso believes wholeheartedly that people can achieve the seemingly impossible, if they put their mind to it. Although now based in London, Rachel is South Africa's first and currently only certified female Mountain Guide, and is one of only a handful of women in the world to complete the specialist and rigorous SAS training process within the British Army. She was a 'Super Human' finalist in the UK Channel 4 television series, and has fronted advertising campaigns and acted as a stunt artist for film and television.

As someone who really does walk the talk, other projects have included an Everest Expedition in 2003 in which she was part of the support team that helped Glenn Shaw set a new altitude record for a paraplegic climber. Glenn has suffered from birth with 'Brittle Bone Disease', a simple fall could cripple him for life or kill him outright. The aim of the expedition was for the team to assist Glenn in achieving his ambition of climbing to Base Camp situated at 5500m (18,000ft) on the North Face of Mount Everest in Tibet.

Later that same year, October 2003, Rachel hit world headlines when she was stranded on a sheer face at 3000m during an extreme blizzard in the Italian Alps. After two nights on a tiny ledge with 1000 metre drops each side she was evacuated by helicopter. Her inspiring book, ‘In a High and Desperate Place’ also provides useful information for business or life on how to survive and succeed in times of extreme adversity. Rachel Colenso’s account of this experience has people on the edges of their seats, and thinking for a long time afterwards about how they can deal with situations in their own lives.

In August 2004 Rachel was at the Yosemite National Park, where she climbed the highest vertical granite face in the world, "The Nose" on El Capitan. The ascent took five days during which time Rachel and her team slept like bats, hanging from harnesses on the sheer rock wall. The rock face is almost a mile high of vertical desert and meant the team had to haul up five days of water and supplies with them!

Rachel Colenso has a natural talent for communicating and has addressed audiences in various countries around the globe as a motivational speaker. She links her adventurous experiences from 20 years of climbing, international adventure racing, and organising expeditions to jungle, desert and snowy regions, seamlessly into a business context.

Speech Topics

Motivational Speaking
An extremely well-informed and articulate motivational speaker, Rachel Colenso has an impressive list of clients who have endorsed her as a highly captivating and inspiring storyteller, as well as her adventurous expeditions to promote eco tourism and sustainable development. She has led numerous expeditions to jungle, desert and snowy regions around the globe as well as having run her own business alongside competing at international level in extreme sports events.

Rachel’s background of guiding in mountains and jungle environments enables her to be at ease talking to corporate audiences, at charity and celebratory functions and to school children alike. One of her greatest achievements must be in making people aware of what can be accomplished despite unforeseen events, or plans that don’t run smoothly.

Rachel Colenso inspires her business audiences to excel despite tight deadlines and demanding situations. Her humorous insight into how teams and leaders operate under stress is a popular after dinner and keynote presentation.

Team Building
Getting people to achieve the impossible is what mountain guiding is about. Team building and Leadership skills are at the heart of the guides work. Over a number of years Rachel Colenso has developed tailor made corporate packages for building and leading effective teams. She likes to work closely with clients to provide an individual service that fulfils all the practical and technical aspects in an ‘enjoyable for all’ environment. This is about a million miles beyond ‘Boot camp’! She will work with select guides and individuals who are able to provide an outstanding service to help you and your team reach your goals. She cover the following areas:

Operating As An Effective Team
You may all have the same goal in mind, but very different ideas on how to get there. Learn to harness your team’s strengths so they can work to create synergy and accomplish more than a group of individuals.
If a mountain guide is an ineffective leader their clients’ lives are at risk. Strong leadership is at the core of developing a successful team that can survive adversity and prosper. Learn and practice the 10 basic principles of leadership to develop your team, and see the results.
Overcoming Obstacles and Exceeding Expectations
How is it some people seem to always come out on top? That some people can happily accomplish things very few would dream of trying? Learn how the brain of the extreme sports athlete works, and put into practice the six steps that extreme sports people use to succeed in achieving the impossible.


Rachel Colenso's tales of survival in the most hostile environments, and her relentless pursuit of new heights to climb, literally and figuratively, have a lot of resonance in the business world. Whether the goal is to reach the peak of a mountain or the pinnacle of entrepreneurial accomplishment, the lessons Rachel puts forth apply just the same. The path to success in virtually any field comes down to a basic set of requirements: Determination, discipline, mental and physical fortitude and accepting nothing less than excellence. Rachel drives those points home from a very unique perspective. She is a powerful motivational speaker.

Walter Gehl, CEO LSG Lufthansa Service Holding AG.

Thank you so much for the most amazing talk yesterday. We have had such positive feedback from our staff. All have thanked Ben and me in one way or other for bringing you to them (some by email, some in personal visits to our offices). Everyone was inspired and motivated by your presentation.

Judy van Dam — Managing Director, JWT Johannesburg.

Rachel was excellent and definitely ‘hit the mark’ on the day. She was very engaging and captured the audience entirely with her story and managed to link it in very effectively with the messages we were trying to get across as part of the overall conference. I would have no hesitation in recommending her as a guest speaker and she was also very good at networking with the audience at the dinner after the presentation. Very enjoyable company and an extremely interesting person.

Pam Mayne - Taylor Wimpey plc.

What an amazing experience with you there! Nobody else could have reached our audience better than you. Your message was so incredibly personalised and truly touched hearts. I have received fabulous feedback and many complements regarding your presentation and for this I want to sincerely thank you. The quality that I appreciated the most about you (other than your amazing insight, humbleness, courage and passion for life), is the fact that you really took to heart what we discussed during our telecon and how you structured your presentation to optimise the reach to our people who find themselves in times of difficult change. You have left them behind with hope and a lasting impression.

Tome van Wyk — Internal Communication Specialist. Wealth, Investments Momentum.

There is absolutely no question that you “struck the right cord” with our audience and left them inspired, motivated and reflective of their own life, where perhaps they remain in the ruts of life's daily challenges that often drag them down. I spent a lot of time during your presentation looking at your audience where I could see that they were glued to your message of overcoming obstacles and your own personal journey of self development and growth. Seemingly in Cape Town, you even left some of our staff in tears of inspiration!

Kevin Hinton, Head of Investment Distribution, Momentum Distribution Services.

What first strikes you about Rachel Colenso are her sincerity and humility, qualities that are usually not so forthcoming in a person that has experienced and accomplished as much as she has. Her incredible story and her natural charisma in delivering it truly moved our audience. This was confirmed by the overwhelmingly positive feedback we received after the event. She came across as truly authentic and natural while taking absolute command of the stage. Rachel managed to raise the impact of the central message of our conference with a highly effective performance. I would not hesitate to recommend her for any kind of event of this nature.

Josefine Corsten, Senior Vice President Corporate Communications and Marketing, LSG Sky Chefs.

Rachel Colenso is a fantastic guest speaker. She is a very impressive and extraordinary lady and she delivers 150%. The way she tells and presents her story is an inspirational breath of fresh air. Anybody that does not book Rachel is seriously missing a wonderful opportunity — and a big WOW!

Old Mutual.

Thanks to Rachel Colenso’s talent for storytelling, participants relived her climb to the top of the mountain. The anxiety, the wait, the fear and finally, the triumph of majestic nature. A palette of emotions that she beautifully transmitted to her audience.

Jessica Pallie - Lombard Odier Asset Management (Switzerland) SA.

Exclusive Interview

As part of our NMP Live Meets... interview series, Rachel Colenso took time out of a busy schedule to sit down with us for an exclusive chat. Watch the video below and find out what she can bring to your event.

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

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Rachel Colenso | NMP Live
Rachel Colenso

South Africa's first certified female mountain guide and explorer

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