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Cathy O’Dowd

Cathy O’Dowd


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, and she remains an active adventurer today!

The years she 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. She has been a professional speaker for over 20 years and has presented her message to companies in more than 40 countries on six continents. She is a Fellow of the Professional Speaking Association of UK/Ireland, who have given her their highest award, the Professional Speaking Award of Excellence.

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 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.

She has been on Everest as the last minute ‘token woman’ team-member, and as an expedition leader. She has worked in partnership with a wide range of international teams forced to co-operate on popular routes, and has climbed on a team attempting a new route, the only expedition on the entire east face. She has faced the ‘worst storm in the history of Everest’ and the giant avalanches of the Kangshung face, and she has faced warring team members as ego ran rampant. She has experienced both the thrill of the summit and the reality of failure, and has paid the ultimate price with the loss of fellow climbers.

Cathy draws on this wide-ranging experience of teams under acute pressure attempting overwhelming challenges to create her corporate presentations. Her stories touch on themes of importance to anyone trying to get the best out of people.

She remains an active adventurer. She was part of the team that did the first ascent of Nanga Parbat via the Mazeno ridge and her most recent expedition was a ski-mountaineering ascent of Mount Logan, the second highest peak in North America.



Reaching New Heights – Leadership & teamwork from the slopes of Mount Everest

Think Like An Explorer – how to do what has never been done before

Brand Everest: 1st ascent vs fake ascent – being authentic and building a great reputation



“ Effortlessly weaving in anecdotes of leadership, teamwork and goal setting her presentation was completely engaging throughout.” – Barratt Developments, 2017

“as ever an outstanding, inspiring presentation that was well received by all” – ProcureCon Pharma 2017

“Your participation was indispensable for the success of the conference.” – UNWTO 2017

“Thank you for a brilliant session at which was truly inspiring and creating new waves of transformation.” – Nomura Group 2017

“Brilliant talk @CathyODowd. You can’t helicopter your way to being ‘authentic’. You need to climb the hard way. All 29,092 ft.” – Pitch CMO 2017

“Cathy has added with her professionalism value to the sessions and her role as the moderator was key to success for the conference.” UNWTO 3rd Euro-Asian Mountain Resorts Conference 2017



To book Cathy O’Dowd for your event, contact Front Row Speakers on +353 1 485 3991 or email
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