Cathy O'Dowd

The First Woman to Summit Everest from North & South Sides

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 of the basis of the 'true story' behind the Hollywood movie Everest.

"From the plains of South Africa to the summit of Everest... and beyond"

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  • Remote Keynoting
  • Reaching New Heights: Teamwork and Leadership from the Slopes of Mount Everest
  • Think Like An Explorer: Doing What Has Never Been Done Before
  • Goal Setting
  • Motivation and Inspiration
  • Overcoming Obstacles
  • Leadership in Uncertainty
  • Change Management


She presents in English and Spanish.

How she presents

Cathy is a passionate speaker, who has turned this experience into a fascinating interactive case-study of successful project execution of truly innovative goals.

Books & Media

  • Just for the Love of it
  • Everest: Free to Decide

In Detail

Cathy completed her master's degree in journalism, while working as a 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 and 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. Cathy's most challenging Himalayan epic was as part of a team attempting a new route on an 8000-metre peak. She is a Fellow of the Professional Speaking Assoc. who has given her their highest award, the Professional Speaking Award of Excellence.


Cathy shares her insights about individuals and teams under intense stress in the face of overwhelming challenge with her corporate audiences. She empowers businesses to confront the uncertainties of the modern world by cultivating an explorer's mindset, encouraging them to embrace curiosity, adaptability, and bold thinking.


Recent Reviews

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Annual Kick Off Meeting

Cathy O’Dowd gave a splendid speech; the content totally supported our theme and was well paced, adding drama where necessary. She really captured our attention.

EMEA Event Planning Specialists

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