Cathy O’Dowd

Cathy O'Dowd (born in 1968) is a South African rock climber, mountaineer, author and motivational speaker, famous for being the first and only woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest from both south (25 May 1996) and north sides (29 May 1999).

It is the combination of determination and teamwork in the face of extreme adversity that took mountaineer Cathy O’Dowd to the summit of the world. Having succeeded from the south in 1996, despite facing the worst storm in Everest’s history, Cathy took on the challenge of the treacherous north side in 1998. Her attempt ended when she stopped to try and save a dying climber. In 1999 Cathy returned and on 29 May she was once more on the summit.

Cathy O’Dowd, who grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa, has climbed ever since leaving school. In late 1995, she was completing a Masters degree in Media Studies when she saw an advert in a local newspaper for a place on the 1st South African Everest Expedition. She was one of 200 women who applied and was the only one finally selected.

Her presentations weave together the literal adventure of climbing Everest and the metaphorical challenge of reaching for the peak of achievement. Cathy draws on her extraordinary experiences and shares her story of challenge, of adventure, of passion for life and the reality of death. Her inspirational keynotes focus on self-motivation, team dynamics, risk-assessment and tackling seemingly overwhelming challenges one step at a time. Cathy is a superb storyteller and all presentations are illustrated throughout by spectacular images of the climbs.

Cathy O’Dowd is an author as well as a speaker and has written two books about her Everest experiences. In May 2000 she became the fourth woman in the world to climb Lhotse, the world’s fourth highest mountain.

In the spring of 2004 she joined British woman Rona Cant and Norwegian Per-Thore-Hansen on a dog-sled expedition of 650 km through the remote wastes of the Norwegian Arctic, from Styggedalen to Nordkapp, the most northerly point in Europe.

Cathy O'Dowd has climbed mountains across southern and central Africa, in South America, in the Alps and in the Himalaya. She remains an active mountaineer, rock-climber and skier.

She married the First South African Everest Expedition leader Ian Woodall in 2001 and is currently living in Andorra in the Pyrenees.