Cathy O'Dowd

Cathy O'Dowd has climbed Everest twice, she draws on her experiences to talk about issues of teamwork, risk assessment, self-motivation and tackling overwhelming challenges. Cathy’s compelling story of risk, adventure and adversity will inspire audiences to achieve their goals. Her passionate tale of leadership and facing the unimaginable ensures she is a sought after motivational speaker.

D: £3K - £5K
"More than one delegate described you as the best conference presentation they had ever experienced."
RCGP Wales

Motivational speaker, author and climber Cathy O’Dowd was the world’s first woman to climb Mount Everest from both the North and South sides.

Cathy’s ability to impart the lessons learnt from her time on the treacherous peaks of Everest make her the ideal choice to cover topics such as teamwork, leadership, and project delivery.

Cathy and her husband, climber Ian Woodall, first reached the summit of Everest in 1996 as part of a South African national expedition. She was one of 200 South African women who applied for a place and was the only one selected. As part of the group who were the first to put the South African flag on the summit of Everest, Cathy’s story will captivate audiences, as her team struggled to choose their own path to success in the treacherous season which inspired the film ‘Everest’.

Cathy always knew she wanted to climb the world’s highest mountain and her love of adventure travel had taken Cathy on a dog-sled expedition through the remote wilderness of the Norwegian Arctic and a climb over the sheer rock walls of Yosemite National Park.

Two years after her first visit to Everest, Cathy returned to the hallowed mountain, this time to the treacherous North face. When she came across a frozen American woman, in the last hour of her life, she could not go on. Cathy decided that she was climbing for the love of climbing and not for the glory of reaching the summit and that she would get no pleasure from continuing when she had watched a woman die, so she returned home.

Back in 1999, Cathy returned to Everest, and became the first woman in the world to climb Everest from both north and south sides.

In 2000 Cathy became only the fourth woman in the world to climb Lhotse, the world's fourth highest mountain.

Beyond Everest, Cathy has climbed the Mazeno ridge of Naga Parbat. Countless international climbing teams had tried and failed, Cathy’s team managed it. Planning their route and actions through strategic decisions, maintaining effective leadership in uncertain times and encouraging innovation in the face of instability, the team succeeded. She also summited Mount Logan, the second highest peak in North Africa.

Using her expedition as a case study for the corporate world, as Cathy drove change management on the treacherous mountain face, she can do the same for businesses. Encouraging others to think like an explorer, Cathy can aid the instigation of change.

An expert in overcoming obstacles and facing an adversity in an environment which cannot be controlled, Cathy can share with businesses the tools to overcome life’s challenges. A natural storyteller with an incredible tale, Cathy is consummate and charismatic motivational speaker.

She is a Fellow of the Professional Speaking Association in the UK and Ireland and the proud owner of the Professional Speaking Award of Excellence.

Cathy is also able to deliver an interactive session, involving audiences in understanding the strategic decision making process when delivering a plan.

For further information or to book Cathy O'Dowd, call us on +44 (0) 20 7607 7070 or email


For further information or to book Cathy O'Dowd please call us on +44 (0)20 7607 7070 or use the contact form:

What people said about Cathy O'Dowd

  • "More than one delegate described you as the best conference presentation they had ever experienced."
  • RCGP Wales

Want to know more about Cathy O'Dowd

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