Cathy O’Dowd is the first woman in the world to climb Mount Everest, from both its north and south sides.
The years Cathy 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.
Cathy, who grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa, has climbed ever since leaving school.
She was completing her Masters degree in Media Studies at Rhodes University and working as a university lecturer when she saw an advert in a newspaper for a place on the 1st South African Everest Expedition.
Cathy O’Dowd was one of 200 women who applied for the Everest place and was the one finally selected.
The team followed the route made famous by Edmund Hillary. Despite being the apprentice on the team, on 25 May 1996, Cathy O’Dowd reached the summit. It was, however, a harsh introduction, as British team-mate, Bruce Herrod lost his life on the descent.
In 1998 she took on the challenge of the treacherous north side of Everest, where George Mallory had famously disappeared in 1924. Her attempt ended just hours below the summit when she stopped to try and save a dying American woman.
In 1999 she returned once more, and succeeded, becoming the first woman in the world to climb Everest from both the north and south sides.
O’Dowd has written two books about her Everest experiences, Everest: Free to Decide, co-written with Ian Woodall, and Just for the Love of it.
In 2000 she became only the fourth woman in the world to climb Lhotse, the world’s fourth highest mountain.
As a motivational speaker, Cathy weaves together the real adventure of the climb and the metaphorical challenge of reaching for the peak of achievement, sharing her stories of challenge, adventure, passion for life and the reality of death.
Her inspirational keynotes focus on self-motivation, risk-assessment, team dynamics, leadership, and tackling seemingly overwhelming challenges.
Cathy O’Dowd can present her speech in English or Spanish.