Cathy O'Dowd

Cathy O’Dowd

The first woman in the world to climb Mount Everest from both sides. Her many high Himalayan expeditions provided extensive experience with individuals and teams facing stress, risk and overwhelming challenge.

South African mountaineer Cathy O’Dowd shares these insights with her corporate audiences through story-driven expedition case-studies. She is an internationally acclaimed motivational speaker who has spoken in over 40 countries. Cathy remains an active adventurer and in spring of 2019 will be doing a ski ascent of Mt Steele, a 5000 meter peak in the Canadian Yukon.

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.

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.

What people say about Cathy O’Dowd

“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.”

“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.”

“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.”

Would you like to share this info about Cathy O’Dowd?

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on Linkdin
Share on Pinterest
Play Video


  • 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