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Monday 10 December 2018

Victoria Pendleton reveals depression battle since pulling out of Everest climb

The former Olympic gold mendal-winner has told of the health issues she has faced over the past two months.

Victoria Pendleton reveals depression battle since pulling out of Everest climb (Steve Parsons/PA)
Victoria Pendleton reveals depression battle since pulling out of Everest climb (Steve Parsons/PA)

By Lucy Mapstone, Press Association Deputy Entertainment Editor

Former Olympian Victoria Pendleton has said she feels “psychologically and physiologically damaged” since having to pull out of a Mount Everest climb attempt earlier this year.

In May, the gold medal-winning cyclist was on course to reach the summit of the world’s highest mountain with TV presenter and adventurer Ben Fogle, but was advised by doctors to cut the trip short due to health issues.

She has now said she has been coping with depression since then, and that she is still very unwell.

Pendleton, 37, told Radio Times magazine: “I’ve been suffering with depression since I got back from Everest.

“I feel psychologically and physiologically damaged.

“It’s really put me through the wringer, and that has been harder than any disappointment about not making it up to the summit.

“It’s like I’ve taken a real battering. I’ve never felt so overwhelmed with illness.”

Pendleton was forced to pull out of the trip due to struggling with oxygen deficiency at 21,000ft, which she said gave her symptoms of “a horrific headache, like knitting needles sticking in the back of my skull”.

“You act like you’re very marginally drunk, it’s not unpleasant, you’re not totally suffering, but signs of the onset of a cerebral edema are very subtle,” she said.

“You have to rely on others recognising it.”

She said that, upon returning home to the UK, doctors told her that oxygen depravation can trigger depression.

“But I felt even further away from myself then,” Pendleton added.

“They’ve assured me that it’s quite a normal thing and in time it will pass. I’ve been having good days and bad days. You just have to grin and bear it.”

View this post on Instagram

Unfortunately after much deliberation I have decided not to continue my endeavour to summit Mount Everest. The weather conditions have offered the possibility of an early summit bid, as a consequence I have been unable to adhere to the prescribed rotation program and keep pace with the team without causing concern regarding my health at the higher camps, due to my lack of adaptation to the extreme altitude. I am incredibly disappointed not to complete the challenge and frustrated as I feel in great physical condition and was moving swiftly and efficiently through the icefall and across the glacier, at no point did I feel this was a weakness in the challenge. Whilst we were working and moving I was really positive and comfortable. Unfortunately when we were recovering in camp in the afternoon, relaxing with a resting heart rate with a less active breathing pattern, I started to feel quite unwell and felt my body was going into shut down and the oxygen saturation of my blood was very low. So much so that I required a light flow of oxygen that continued throughout the night. My condition caused much concern to Kenton and distressed the team. Kenton felt it was perhaps more sensible for me not to continue, for the sake of my health and wellbeing. I took his advice and called an end to my summit bid. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity to have experience one of the the most impressive, imposing and challenging environments on the planet, the Himalayas are a magical place I feel honoured to have visited. I hope that I may continue to support the @britishredcross and their fundraising and thank @anythingispossible.world for this incredible experience. I also wish @benfogle and @kentoncool all the very best of luck in their summit bid! I have 100% faith, thanks to @fishercreative for the photo x

A post shared by Victoria Pendleton C.B.E (@victorilou) on

She also said that she was blighted with chest and ear infections that took “three weeks of antibiotics to get over”, and that it sent her into “despair”.

Pendleton trained for 18 months for the Everest expedition, which she undertook with Fogle and mountaineer Kenton Cool, for the British Red Cross in a bid to highlight the environmental challenges mountains face.

Their efforts will be shown in a three-part series called The Challenge: Everest, which starts on CNN later this month.

Since retiring from cycling, Pendleton has become a professional jockey, and finished fifth in the 2016 Foxhunter Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

She was also a contestant in the 10th series of Strictly Come Dancing, where she was partnered with professional dancer Brendan Cole.

Radio Times is on sale now.

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