Paul Deegan Profile

Paul Deegan is a survivor of the 1996 Mt. Everest fatal “rogue storm” that was the bases of the best-selling book Into Thin Air. Not only did he survive one of the deadliest tragedies to ever strike the famed mountain, he conquered his fears and returned eight years later to climb it all the way to the summit.

Paul credits his passion for risk-taking to his mother, who dropped him off a little bit further from primary school each day, gradually teaching him independence. At age 18, Paul proposed and led an expedition to Mount Everest to clean up decades of trash around the base. The trip prompted a sense of adventure that has led him around the world to gorges and mountaintops never before explored. In fact Paul and his teams have been the first humans to set foot on the soil in various locations.

Along the way he has learned valuable lessons about teamwork, leadership, and decision-making, sometimes in life-or-death circumstances. Paul has shared his experiences with thousands of people through print, news media, and his current career as a motivational speaker. He continues to follow his sense of adventure and guide expeditions into the wild.

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    Paul Deegan’s passion for sharing the risk-taking, decision-making, leadership and teamwork lessons that he has learnt the hard way in remote and wild places began in the 1980s when he proposed and subsequently co-led the first environmental expedition to Mount Everest at the age of 18.

    Paul’s 47-strong team cleaned up three decades of trash that had accumulated at the base of the world’s highest mountain because at the time there were no ecological regulations in place on Everest. Whilst picking up shredded plastic tarps, discarded medical equipment and empty tins of caviar, Paul looked up at Everest and wondered for the first time what the view was like from its summit.

    Turning his back on a promising career in refuse collection, Paul committed himself to a voyage of discovery after the Everest clean-up. He undertook a winter journey through the Indian Himalaya in a gorge deeper than the Grand Canyon, worked at a scientific research station on the frozen skin of the Arctic Ocean, and led an expedition that made first ascents in an unexplored range of Central Asian mountains: more people have stood on the moon than on the summits that Paul’s team climbed.

    Along the way, several hundred of Paul’s stories were published in newspapers and periodicals, and he was interviewed by national media on both sides of the Atlantic. To the astonishment of his high school English teacher, Paul’s first book was recognised by the National Outdoor Book Awards.

    Everest remained at the core of many of Paul’s adventures, and in the 1990s he made two attempts to climb the mountain of his dreams. However, after becoming embroiled in the greatest tragedy in the history of Everest, Paul gave up his dream to reach the top of the world. He vowed never to go back to the peak that claimed a dozen lives in a single month. But the dream refused to die. Eight years later, Paul finally overcame immense self-doubt and set off on a final attempt to climb Everest.

    At the culmination of two mentally and physically gruelling months, Paul enjoyed the privilege of spending 15 minutes looking at the view from the top of the world. Each of those minutes represented one of the years that he had tried and failed and tried again to reach the summit.

    Today, Paul relishes opportunities to help individuals and teams to climb their own Everest, whatever it may be.

Paul Deegan Speaking Videos

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Paul Deegan's Speech Descriptions

Rugged explorer and wilderness expert Paul Deegan keeps audiences on the edge of their seats as he shares journeys that have taken him to places never before touched by humankind. In a line of work that can cost your life, he is an authority on teamwork, leadership, decision-making, risk taking, and navigating obstacles, skills that everyone can use. Paul has connected with a wide range of audiences from IT executives in Dubai to portfolio managers in Hong Kong.

Whenever practical, Paul prefers to arrive several hours before (or in the case of multi-day conferences the day before) he speaks. He enjoys remaining on-site after his presentation in order to give audience members an opportunity to chat with him.

Into The Unknown: Leading Your Team in an Uncertain World
At the turn of this century, most people thought there was nowhere left on Earth to discover. Then Paul Deegan organized an expedition to an unexplored range of mountains. Members of his team made ascents of previously unclimbed peaks, saw snow leopards and camels and encountered nomadic communities who had never met people from outside the former Soviet Union. To prepare for this groundbreaking enterprise, Deegan drew on his experiences as a leader and team member on expeditions to Alaska, the European Alps and the Himalayas. In this presentation, Deegan explains why he ensures that every member of his team is more talented than he is, illustrates his philosophy of invisible leadership and describes why there can be no room for passengers on any team.

Overcoming Disaster: Drivers of Individual Determination on the Roof of the World
The 1996 Into Thin Air storm claimed the lives of 11 climbers and was the worst catastrophe in the history of Everest. Paul Deegan, who was on the mountain when the storm struck, vowed never to return. Yet eight years later, Deegan broke his promise and made a final attempt to reach the top of the world. Why did Deegan go back? How did he overcome extreme self-doubt about his chance of survival? And after such a long hiatus, would he be able to fulfill his lifetime ambition? During this presentation, Deegan reveals a trick of the mind to reduce the fear of failure, how a rocking chair can help you make your next big decision and why the best way to achieve an ambition is to forget about it.

Other Topics Include:

Flying at 500 miles per hour at the height of the Lincoln Memorial made Paul realise that there can never be room for passengers on any team.

If a storm forced you back from the summit of Everest when you were less than 1000 vertical feet away, what would you do: return to friends and family after two months away from home; or try to re-ascend the mountain despite your exhaustion?

When Paul fell through ice into a fast-flowing river in the Himalaya, his only chance of rescue came from a teammate who would have to risk his own life to save Paul’s.

Having the courage to periodically press the pause button in challenging situations is better than pushing on in the hope that things might get better, as Paul discovered whilst battling windchill temperatures of minus 100ºF on America’s highest mountain.

What People are Saying about Seeing Paul Speak

Rating Entries

“The team was on the edge of their seats and we’ve had so much great feedback from everyone, including our investors! We appreciated your thorough preparation to help your message resonate with the team.”

“I was completely impressed with your presentation, and specifically liked the way you wrapped in commentary about teams and individuals which made it feel like you were part of my organisation.”

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Books by Paul Deegan:


The Mountain Travellers Handbook: Your Companion from City to Summit
In response to unprecedented numbers of trekkers and climbers heading for mountain regions outside of the UK, this practical handbook has been written to enlighten and inform relatively inexperienced mountain travellers about related issues.

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