Adventurous Expats: Meet Cathy O'Dowd
Posted by Dannielle Noonan
People often come to Medibroker to get an impartial recommendation about the best health plan for their specific needs, and we were recently contacted by an exciting customer who really needed an insurance policy that performed for her.
Cathy O’Dowd is the first woman in the world to climb Mount Everest from both sides and the first South African to climb Everest.
She leads an action-packed life of extreme sports, and travel insurance isn’t enough to protect her. Cathy’s lifestyle is one of adventure, and so she needed a comprehensive health plan that enables her to scale mountains in the knowledge that her medical insurance will support her.
Having done climbs in North and South American, Asia, Africa, Europe, Australasia, “Just missing Antarctica!” she quips; an international health plan is vital. Cathy typically goes on two big expeditions per year, and between her motivational speaking and countless mountain activities, she’s travelled to around 55 countries. She currently lives in La Massana, Andorra - in the Pyrenees Mountains, where she can do her sports every day.
“In winter I ski tour several times a week, it is a 20 minute drive to somewhere where I can put skis on my feet from the car park. In summer I can go mountain running from my doorstep and within about 2.5 hours drive of where I live I have 25 good rock-climbing areas, some of them world-renowned. For alpine climbing, again I have mountains close to home, things I can do in a few hours from the house. And then of course the whole of the Alps are only a two hour flight away, or a day’s driving!”
Cathy’s days consist of white knuckle sports like technical rock-climbing (she prefers long routes to short technical ones), ski-mountaineering (climbing up mountains on skis and then skiing back down them), and mountain running distances as long as 100km - a journey which she completed in 19 hours.
In between adventures, she travels the world giving inspirational talks about team dynamics, leadership and managing uncertainty.
“None of this is something I do on a ‘holiday’ with ‘travel insurance’ a few times a year. This is woven into my daily life”, Cathy says.
We asked Cathy to share the most difficult expedition she had ever been on, and she reminisced about her first ascent of Nanga Parbat (the 9th highest mountain in the world) via the Mazeno ridge in 2012. She told us, “I got up to 7400 metres - part of the first summit bid - but didn’t reach the top - the two guys who did very nearly got themselves killed. That one went well past my acceptable risk limits!”
Clearly cautious and well-informed about putting her life in danger, the awe-inspiring lady also enjoys slightly more sedate activities like paragliding and scuba diving, or driving a dogsled 350 kilometres across Arctic Norway to the northern-most point of Europe. These hobbies also require a certain level of cover.
Cathy told us that finding medical cover that allows her to climb mountains with peace of mind is a big issue. Cathy wanted to speak to a trusted, impartial expert to ensure that her current health plan was the best available. Our health insurance expert, Steve McCrady, surveyed the market and concluded that Cathy did in fact hold the best plan for her at that current time.
Steve acted in Cathy’s best interests and told her that her BUPA plan was the best available option. Delighted with Medibroker’s honesty, Cathy assigned us as her insurance broker. Should a better plan become available for Cathy’s mammoth mountain climbing expeditions, Medibroker will make sure she knows about it – and you can ensure that you also have a plan that meets your specific needs by contacting our team.
Cathy is showing no signs of slowing down. Her next ‘smaller’ project is in July, when she will spend three weeks rock climbing on the granite towers of the Lofoten Islands in Arctic Norway, before her upcoming ski-mountaineering ascent of Mount Logan, 2nd highest peak in North America (and higher from base camp to summit than Everest!), in May 2016.