Vanessa O'Brien

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Vanessa O'Brien
Vanessa O'Brien at Aiguille du Midi
Born December 2, 1964
Grosse Pointe, MI, USA
Nationality American/British
Occupation Mountaineer, Explorer, Public Speaker
Organization Goodwill Ambassador for Pakistan, Honorary Ambassador for U.S. Nepal Climbers Association Inc.
Known for First American and British female to climb K2, first female to climb Seven Summits in less than one year, and first female to complete Explorers Grand Slam in less than one year
Board member of Thomson Safaris

Vanessa Audi Rhys O'Brien, is a British-American mountain climber, explorer, public speaker and former business executive. She became the first American and British woman to successfully summit K2, the second tallest mountain in the world, on July 28, 2017 when she led a team of 12 members to the summit on her third attempt.[1][2][3] She is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and a Member of The Explorers Club.[4]

She has climbed the highest peak on every continent and has a Guinness World Record for doing so in 295 days, setting a record for the fastest time a woman first achieved this goal.[5] O'Brien has also skied the last 60 nautical miles or 111 km to the South Pole and North Pole completing the Explorers Grand Slam in 11 months,[6][7] becoming the first woman to do so in under a calendar year and the 8th woman in the world to accomplish this.[8] O'Brien has also successfully completed the Boston Marathon running 26.2 miles; helping the American Red Cross raise over $512,000 for charity.[9]

Early life[edit]

Vanessa Audi Rhys O'Brien was born on December 2, 1964 and grew up in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan. After graduating from Grosse Pointe South High School, O'Brien briefly attended University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan and then New York University where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Economics.

Professional career[edit]

After receiving her BA from New York University, O'Brien joined the Financial Management Program at GE Capital. After graduating from the FMP program and winning the Pinnacle Award for outstanding performance, GE Capital sponsored O'Brien for an Executive MBA in Finance at the Stern School of Business, New York University. After GE Capital, O'Brien contributed to Capital One before moving overseas to hold various London-based positions as the Director of Finance and Business Development for Morgan Stanley, Barclays Bank, and the Bank of America.[10][11]

Advisory, board and research roles[edit]

O'Brien is a Board Member of the American Pakistan Foundation,[12] is an Honorary Ambassador of the US Nepal Climbers Association Inc.,[13] serves as an Advisory Board Member for Thomson Safaris,[14] and is an active member of The American Alpine Club. O'Brien has contributed to a number of research and scientific projects including investigating the effects of nocturnal hypoxic exposure on high-altitude mountaineering (Explorers Club Flag #206 to Manaslu's summit at 26,759 feet[15]), testing the thinning of high altitude glaciers (Explorers Club Flag #132 to the Godwin-Austen Glacier at 16,500 feet[16]), and illustrating the impact of climate change at the equator in advance of COP21 in conjunction with Project 25Zero.[17]

Summits and expeditions[edit]

Having trekked to Mount Everest base camp and reached the summits of a number of notable mountains, including four of the world's fourteen 8,000 meter peaks (Shishapangma, Everest, Cho Oyu and Manaslu), including summiting two eight thousanders back-to-back just 8 days apart (Shishapangma and Cho Oyu), O'Brien decided to build on her passion for mountaineering and set herself the challenge of achieving the Explorer's Grand Slam.[18] The Explorer's Grand Slam entails reaching the Seven Summits, the North and South Poles, as well as meeting the Three Pole Challenge.[19]


O'Brien on top of K2 Summit, Northern Pakistan, 8,611m, on July 28, 2017, at the moment she becomes the first American woman to summit K2
The Seven Summits 2
Mountain Height Date Climbed Location
Kilimanjaro 19,340 ft. March 10, 2013 Africa
Everest 29,035 ft. May 19, 2012 Asia
Denali 20,320 ft. June 19, 2012 N. America
Elbrus 18,510 ft. July 15, 2012 Europe
Carstensz Pyramid 16,023 ft. September 23, 2012 Oceania
Kosciuszko 7,310 ft. October 3, 2012 Australia
Vinson Massif 16,050 ft. December 5, 2012 Antarctica
Aconcagua 22,841 ft. January 20, 2013 S. America
Three Poles Challenge
Mountain Height Date Climbed Location
Everest 29,035 ft. May 19, 2012 Asia
South Pole 89 Degree Dec. 15, 2012 Antarctica
North Pole 89 Degree April 16, 2013 Arctic Ocean
Other Expeditions
Mountain Height Date Climbed Location
Everest 18,500 ft. April 28, 2010 Asia (Nepal)
Shishapangma (Central) 26,273 ft. October 4, 2011 Asia (Tibet)
Cho Oyu 26,906 ft. October 12, 2011 Asia (Tibet)
Lobuche East 19,700 ft. April 14, 2012 Asia (Nepal)
Mont Blanc 15,781 ft. June 25, 2014 Europe
Manaslu 26,759 ft. September. 25, 2014 Asia (Nepal)
Cayambe 18,996 ft. May 30, 2016 Ecuador
Chimborazo 20,564 ft. June 6, 2016 Ecuador
K2[3] 28,251 ft. July 28, 2017 Asia (Pakistan)

Boston Marathon[edit]

After taking the American Red Cross flag to the North Pole in 2013,[19] O'Brien successfully completed the Boston Marathon,[9] becoming one of the top 8 fundraisers for the American Red Cross who raised over $512,000.[20]

Race Details
Statistic Result
Bib # 26015
Net Time 5:16:00
Overall 24851/26411
In Gender 11098/11973 (Female)
In Division 1142/1223 (F50-54 Age Group)


  1. ^ POKHREL, RAJAN. "Vanessa O'Brien, John Snorri set record as 12 scale Mt K2". The Himalayan Times. Retrieved 28 July 2017. 
  2. ^ "Vanessa O'Brien becomes the first British-American woman to climb K2". Dunya News. Retrieved 31 July 2017. 
  3. ^ a b Samaa Web Desk. "British-American woman conquers K2, holds Pakistan flag atop". Samaa TV. SAMAA. Retrieved 31 July 2017. 
  4. ^ "American Mountain Climber Vanessa O'Brien to Ascend K2 Mountain in Northern Pakistan". American Pakistan Foundation. Retrieved 1 June 2016. 
  5. ^ "Mountaineering" (PDF). Guinness Book of World Records 2017. Guinness Book of World Records 2017. Retrieved 1 December 2016. 
  6. ^ "Boston's Vanessa O'Brien Completes 'Explorers Grand Slam' in Record Time". April 2013. 
  7. ^ "Woman Completes Explorer's Grand Slam in Record Time". May 2013. 
  8. ^ "Seven Summits Climber Continues to the Ends of the Earth to Reach Goal". March 2013. 
  9. ^ a b "2017 Boston Marathon Results". The Boston Globe. The Boston Globe. Retrieved 17 April 2017. 
  10. ^ "Boston woman tackles peaks at a record pace". April 2013. 
  11. ^ "Boston College Club Woman Vanessa O'Brien to Become the First Woman to Complete the Explorer's Grand Slam". January 2013. 
  12. ^ "American Pakistan Foundation Confirms Vanessa O'Brien to the Board of Directors". American Pakistan Foundation. Retrieved 3 October 2016. 
  13. ^ "USNCA Members - Honorary Ambassador". US Nepal Climbers Association. Retrieved 25 August 2016. 
  14. ^ "Advisory Board". Thomson Treks. Retrieved 25 August 2016. 
  15. ^ "The Explorers Log" (PDF). The Official Newsletter of the Explorers Club. 46 (4): 22, 24, 26, 27. Fall 2014. 
  16. ^ "The Explorers Club Log, Fall 2015" (PDF). The Explorers Club. The Explorers Club. Retrieved 1 September 2015. 
  17. ^ Taylor, Andrew. "Australian Museum's Tim Jarvis leads mountain climbs to campaign on climate change". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 14 September 2015. 
  18. ^ "Vanessa O'Brien: What Attracted me was the Goal". May 2013. 
  19. ^ a b "Loren's Badass Chick of the Week: Vanessa O'Brien". May 2013. 
  20. ^ "American Red Cross Massachusetts' Fundraiser: Team Red Cross 2017". Crowd Rise. Retrieved 17 April 2017. 

External links[edit]