Crossing the Bottleneck Serac on K2

At the top of Mount
Everest in Nepal

Khumbu Icefall, Everest Nepal

Geographic South Pole at 90 degrees

K2 Summit

Nearing the summit of Shishapangma in Tibet

With Steve Edwards on Good Day LA

On the tyrolean traverse leading up to
the summit of Carstensz Pyramid

Stylized for CBK, Photos by Icarus Blake

Climbing K2’s Abruzzi Spur, Pakistan

At the Women Achievers Congress, London 2015

With the Home Secretary Theresa May and the
Pakistani High Commissioner Mr Syed Ibne Abbas

Meet Vanessa

Mountain Climber, Explorer

Vanessa O’Brien became the first American woman to climb K2 and the first British woman to climb K2 (as a result of her dual nationality) on 28 July 2017 when she successfully led a team of 12 members to the summit and back on her third attempt. She received the SES Explorer of the Year in 2018 for her efforts. Vanessa proudly raised the UN Women’s Flag at the summit of K2 to show the power of women’s courage and determination.

Vanessa has a Guinness World Record for summiting the Seven Summits in 295 days, the fastest time a woman first achieved this goal.  She has also skied the Last Degree to the North and South poles.

Coming Up

Publication: May 2020
Simon & Schuster

Vanessa O’Brien, FRGS

Vanessa O’Brien is a mountaineer, explorer and former business executive. Key highlights:

  • Awarded Fearless Girl and Community Ambassador for Arc’Teryx, Soho.

  • SES Explorer of the Year in 2018.

  • First American woman and the first British woman to summit K2 at 8,611m.

  • Guinness World Record holder for being the first woman to set a speed record to climb the Seven Summits in 295 days.

  • First woman to set a speed record to complete the Explorers Grand Slam (Seven Summits plus skiing the last degree to the North and South Poles) in 11 months, and one of only eight woman in the world.

  • Summited five of 14 eight thousand meter peaks or peaks over 26,000 feet, including Everest.

  • Summited two eight thousand meter peaks back-to-back with summits eight days apart.

  • Goodwill Ambassador for Pakistan and Honorary Ambassador of the US Nepal Climbers Association Inc.

  • Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, Fellow of The Explorers Club, and Member of The Scientific Exploration Society.

  • Successfully completed the Boston Marathon, helping the American Red Cross raise over $512,000.

  • 200 mph at Indianapolis Motor Speedway riding with Mario Andretti and shot at point blank range by Miguel Caballero testing bulletproof vests with a .38 long revolver.

  • Promoted scientific research by testing hypoxic exposure, sampled glaciers to test for radiogenic isotopes, and photographed glacier recession for Project 25Zero.

  • Registered speaker with the American Program Bureau to corporates, academics, not-for-profit, and the public sector.

  • Contract Photographer covering Pocono Raceway and Charlotte Motor Speedway’s 4-wide zMAX Dragway for Forbes.

  • Executive MBA from Stern School of Business, New York University and 20+ years of executive experience in global Financial Services.

Vanessa O’Brien is part of the National Women’s History Museum ‘s exhibit on women who searched for adventure in the great outdoors and became the first known American women to accomplish their particular achievements.

Featured Videos

Vanessa O’Brien – First British and American Woman to Conquer K2

Vanessa O’Brien, the first British and American woman to conquer K2, tells Voice of America her story. Video credit to The Voice of America.

Why This Road?  Sponsored by Vimeo & Charles Schwab

After years of working in finance, Vanessa began to question life, and came to the realization that it needed to change. From consumer accounts for many large banking firms, Vanessa began her new journey as a climber—first novice and now record holder. This film illustrates the pivotal moments that led to Vanessa’s evolution and ability to grasp a different kind of tomorrow.

Breathe: An Explorers Grand Slam Journey

Journey with me to the 7 Summits in 7 minutes. Join me as I become the fastest woman to complete the Explorers Grand Slam and ski the last degree to the North and South poles, in 11 months.

No-one can take away the knowledge, skills, and experience you acquire throughout your life. Your knowledge, skills, and experience inform your decisions as you move forward. So go ahead – take the biggest step you can

– Vanessa O’Brien
(Banker to Mountaineer)

There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing, and mountaineering; all the rest are merely games.

– Ernest Hemingway

Photos Across the Globe

Latest Press

See the latest press in popular newspapers and magazines.

Yahoo Finance’s Midday Movers profiles Vanessa O’Brien’s ascent of K2 on November 17, 2017. Host Alexis Christoforous and Vanessa discuss Women and Leadership among other things.

Vanessa O’Brien, the first British and American woman to conquer K2, tells Voice of America her story.

What others say about Vanessa O’Brien

“Vanessa touched hundreds of hearts when she spoke at Women Achievers Congress in Westminster, London in the presence of the British Home Secretary Rt Hon Theresa May and hundreds of high achiever women from various disciplines. The audience loved her analogy of conquering the mountain vis-e-vis scaling the corporate ladder. Her passion and enthusiasm were termed infectious.”

Arif Anis Malik
Arif Anis MalikExecutive DirectorWCOP

“The focus of my activity was to give women an open and safe environment for physical activity that is not only good for their health but also for their psychological development. Vanessa O’Brien’s presence and the support from the PUAN leadership have been instrumental in making this project a success.”

Ms. Shah Rukh
Ms. Shah Rukh10,000 Women Project ArtemisU.S. State Department & Pakistan

“Vanessa is a dynamic story teller, putting you right on the mountain with her. She effectively related how key business concepts like teamwork, adaptability and leadership are skills that apply to just about any scenario – even navigating in high altitudes and deep crevasses. She had our group focused and engaged until the very end.”

Shana Fleet
Shana FleetEnterprise Data ManagementCapital One

“Using the metaphor of climbing, Vanessa took us on a tour of some of the most challenging and remote places on the planet. She illustrated how preparation, teamwork, staying focused to avoid risks, and applying a success-oriented mindset differentiate the winners from the losers – not just on the mountain but in business and in life.”

Senator Lesil McGuire
Senator Lesil McGuireAlaska State LegislatureAlaska Women’s Summit

“Vanessa’s recent visit to Cape Henry Collegiate was nothing short of remarkable. Her presence and style engaged students while her story and message inspired them. The time she spent with our community before and after her presentation provided all with an opportunity to ask questions, and learn about the life lessons of risk taking, decision making, and goal setting.”

Kathleen K. Sharp, M.Ed., Ed.S.
Kathleen K. Sharp, M.Ed., Ed.S.Director of Academic AffairsCape Henry Collegiate

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