Cathy O’Dowd is a remarkable climber and mountaineer with many achievements to her name; one of the most significant being the fact that she is the first woman in the world to climb Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain, from both its north and south sides. She will be bringing to WEMski a wealth of knowledge and real-life experience that will help you further understand the extreme physical and psychological challenges faced when participating in an extreme challenge. Cathy will also be discussing how important team dynamics were to her expeditions and how she found having the right leadership and team behind you is a huge benefit in high-stress situations.
Growing up in Johannesburg, South Africa, Cathy started climbing when she left school and her love and passion for adventure kept growing. While completing her Master’s degree in Media Studies at Rhodes University and working as a university lecturer she saw a newspaper advert for a place on the first South African Everest Expedition and decided to apply. Six months later she achieved her goal and became the first South African to summit Everest. Three years later Cathy became the first woman in the world to climb the mountain from both sides, an amazing feat of courage, strength and endurance.
Today, Cathy remains an active adventurer and was part of the team that made 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. It’s through taking on and completing these remarkable challenges, plus her time spent on Everest that has enabled her to discover insights about herself and the teams she has travelled with.
We are thrilled to welcome Cathy to our WEMski faculty and to give you a little taste of what Cathy will be talking about at WEMski, we asked her these three questions…
Q. What skills would you say are vital in an extreme and challenging environment?
A. The ability to keep calm and think laterally in search of solutions when in an extreme situation, even if you are feeling bitterly cold, tired and stressed is vital and potentially life-saving.
Q. What first interested you in taking on extreme physical and psychological challenges?
A. It crept up on me very, very slowly. I started out rock climbing in sunny South Africa and ended up climbing 8,000-metre peaks. I suspect curiosity is the main culprit – what would it be like to try that thing? Will I be able to rise to the challenge?
Q. What has been your scariest ‘extreme’ challenge and why?
A. Probably the Mazeno Ridge of Nanga Parbat because we were so far beyond any kind of help, with no easy or quick exits available, and we were unable to carry much in the way of medical back-up.
N.B. To give you some background information on just how difficult and extreme this encounter was, the Mazeno Ridge of Nanga Parbat is one of the last great climbing challenges of the high Himalaya: ten kilometres long, lying at 7000 metres with 8 subsidiary summits, the longest unclimbed ridge of any 8,000-metre peak. International climbing teams had tried 10 times over three decades to accomplish this expedition and all had failed
To find out more information on WEMski or to book your place on what we promise will be an incredibly fun, diverse and inspiring week, please click here.