On the day we meet at her home in Oxfordshire, Pendleton looks fit and healthy. She is in her gym kit, ahead of a sparring session. Her two Dobermans, Mr Jonty and Stella, managed to sleep through my arrival, earning gentle admonishment from their mistress for being “poor guard dogs”. Pendleton offers me a vegan coffee (“I’m sorry, I’ve only got almond milk”) and we sit down on two big armchairs.
Pendleton recalls how her mental health began to deteriorate soon after she returned from Everest last May. Having spent 18 months training for the attempt, which she undertook alongside Ben Fogle for the British Red Cross, her failure to reach the summit – Pendleton had to return to base camp after suffering from hypoxia – was a blow.
But it turned out to be only the start of a terrifying period in which her life spiralled out of control.
Pendleton’s marriage to Scott Gardner, who she met when he was a sports scientist at British Cycling, had ended by this stage (although they did not make it public until later in the summer), and Pendleton returned to an empty home.
“It was an accumulation of factors,” she says. “I went from this full-on environment; avalanches breaking above my head, jumping across crevasses where you might die if you fell in… to coming back here, to a property I was potentially selling because I needed to move on with my life. I didn’t really have security in where I was living, what I was doing next, the whole divorce, how I was feeling about that. It just overwhelmed me.”