Cathy O′Dowd

First Woman to Summit Everest from North and South Sides

Cathy O´Dowd speaker, keynote speech
English · Spanish

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.

The years she spent on Everest were for her a degree ‘in living’. The insights she discovered about herself, about individuals and teams in a situation of intense stress and overwhelming challenges, are the memories she has been sharing and applying in sport fit life and also in business

She has been a professional speaker for eight years and has presented her message to companies in 26 countries and five continents.

CathyO´Dowd remains an active adventurer. In 2003, she made a bold but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to climb a new route on the notorious east face of Everest. In spring of 2004, she took a dog-sled expedition through the remote wilderness of the Norwegian Arctic to the northern-most point of Europe. In summer of 2005, she tackled the sheer rock walls of Yosemite National Park.

Cathy O’Dowd who grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa, has dedicated her life to climbing. When she was about to finish her Masters degree in Media Studies at Rhodes University and working as university speaker, she saw an advice in a newspaper for a place on the 1st South African Everest Expedition.

She 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 tough introduction as British team-mate Bruce Herrod was killed 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 a few hours later when she stopped to try saving 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.

In her new conference, “Think like an explorer”,  Cathy transforms the extraordinary experience of climbing to the Mazeno ridge of Nanga Parbat into a case-study of the  challenges of trying to do what has never been done before, operating in unpredictable, high-risk environments and identifies the key problems in executing ambitious plans in a VUCA world -volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous. Her analysis and solutions will help any strategic planner implement innovative objectives more effectively.

Cathy 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, translated into German as Aus Liebe Zum Berg. In 2000 she became the fourth woman in the world to climb Lhotse, the world’s fourth highest mountain.

Think like an explorer: Going where no one has gone before

Reach for The Heights!





Team Dynamics & Leadership

Challenges of Coping with Change

Moving Mountains! Personal

Motivation & Achievement

Scale New Heights! Top Tools for Tackling New Challenges

Risking It All for a 360° View

Risk Management – Where Your Life is on the Line

The Global Village Climbs Everest

Globalization: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Just for the love of it

At 8am on 29 May Cathy O’Dowd, a 30-year-old mountaineer from South Africa, stepped onto the summit of Everest and into history. She had become the first woman to climb the highest mountain in the world from both its south (Edmund Hillary) and north (George Mallory) sides. To achieve this, Cathy has had to face the ultimate risks of Everest.

During her first ascent from the south in 1996, she and her team were trapped in the killer storm described in Jon Krakauer’s best seller Into Thin Air. They finally reached the summit, only to have the thrill of success snatched away when a team member disappeared on the descent. In 1998 Cathy, attempting the north side of Everest, stopped only a few hundred metres from the summit to try and help a dying American climber. The woman’s first words were ‘don’t leave me’. Yet Cathy eventually had to leave her to save her own life.

Now Cathy has captured the drama of her Everest climbs, her passion for the challenge of climbing mountains and her love for wild places in this story of her four attempts on the mountain. Cathy tries to answer the question of why, if climbing Everest can be so dangerous, people still want to do it.

Featuring a new chapter exclusive to this electronic edition, Cathy shares the previously untold story of her fourth Everest expedition, an attempt to climb a new route on the seldom visited and very risky east face of Everest. Storms, avalanches and crevasses all contributed to an expedition fraught with difficulty.

This is a book of challenge, of adventure, of love and life and death. This is Everest, the world’s highest mountain, climbed ‘just for the love of it’.

Just for the love of it