Cathy O’Dowd

1st Woman in the World to climb Everest from both sides

why book cathy?

  • The first woman to summit Mount Everest from both its north and south sides, offering a unique perspective on leadership and teamwork
  • Her book ‘Just For The Love Of It,’ details her Everest experiences. She draws on her Himalayan years as a ‘degree in living’ to share insights with corporate audiences
  • Cathy’s keynotes focus on team dynamics and leadership, blending her literal Everest adventures with metaphorical challenges, providing valuable lessons for achieving ambitious goals


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.

Her spring 2019 expedition is a ski ascent of Mt Steele, a 5000 metre peak in the Canadian Yukon.

Recent clients include Roche Diagnostics, Arendt, BearingPoint, GE Wind Energy GmbH, ThyssenKrupp, Sealed Air, Diversey, Enel Green Power, Rexam, Middlesborough Schools Teaching Alliance, STEF



Leadership in uncertainty

Effective decision-making

Change management

Risk management

Successful project management

Diversity in teams

Cathy O’Dowd


You may want to go deeper with your audience. Masterclasses can be tailored and developed to suit your audience needs, be it a 90-minute Masterclass, a half-day or full-day workshop or a full online or face-to-face programme. Please contact one of our expert team to discuss.




“Cathy delivered her talk in a very engaging way, and realy inspired our audience of senior investors and executives.”



“Cathy gave a fantastic presentation: engaging the audience with interactive tools, we discovered how the “climbing world” has changed… Her speech was highly praised as the situational examples she used are also relevant to business.”

Roche Diagnostics


“What we also liked was that you linked your personal story to our BearingPoint business and project culture… also in our world teaming, making mistakes and diversity is very important.”



“The participants loved your presentation, the story and the structure of it it!”



“a truly inspiring talk …very powerful messages”

CWT Global Leadership Event


“Cathy is an incredible speaker. The use of live poling in her talk was particularly good. She was also great to work with in the lead-up to the event when discussing the format, content and objectives of the talk, and on social media.”

IHIF 2018 (International Hotel Investment Forum)


“it has been a pleasure listening to you and the feedback I got from the team was overwhelming. And I was not joking when I said that I have never seen a GE audience being so attentive.”

Andreas von Bobart, GE Wind Energy GmbH

“Pues los mensajes estaban muy en la línea con nuestra cultura y la forma en la que combinas tu presentación ( estructura, los silencios …) es impactante y permite asimilar muy bien los contenidos. Desde STEF hemos considerado tu intervención como todo UN ÉXITO!!”

Antonio Fernandez Dobaño, STEF


“Fascinating and inspiring insight into ‘mountain life’ and the importance of effective teamwork.”

Louise Moore, Middlesborough Schools Teaching Alliance


“Your presentation was highly appreciated by the audience and fitted the requirements, so BIG THANK YOU from my side. Everyone enjoyed your presentation as you have probably noticed after the queue for pictures and autographs that followed your session. Your speech was rated in top 10 out of 58 sessions of the entire conference.”

Andra Calin, Microsoft Romania


“very inspirational, lively and thought provoking presentation… The feedback I received from the team was extremely positive – we all felt very privileged for the opportunity to listen to you and your thoughts on leadership!”

Rainer Hönig, Rolls-Royce plc


“I got extremely good feedback about your performance.”

Rafael Echevarria, Diversey Europe