Illi Gardner, a student from Cardiff, Wales, broke the women’s Everesting record on Aug. 14. The 21-year-old climbed 8,848 metres in eight hours 33 minutes and 47 seconds, nearly 20 minutes faster than the previous women’s world record holder Emma Pooley, who set her time in July 2020.
For her record-breaking effort, Gardner rode a climb called Bwlch y Groes in Norther Wales (“not sure I’d recommend,” she said in her ride title.)
“Riding up steep hills is one of my favourite activities but having too much of a good thing might actually exist,” wrote Gardner in an Instagram post. “Think I started to find it after over eight and a half hours on Bwlch y Groes!”
The cyclist’s data has been verified by Hell’s 500, the official Everesting record keepers. The segment she rode, which is less than a kilometre long with an average gradient of 17.4 per cent, required 71 repeats to get to 8,848 metres of elevation (and a total distance of 107.57 km.) Her weighted average power for the ride was 209W.
Fog and sheep
Gardner is studying visual effects at the University of Cardiff and currently rides for Cams-Basso, a British UCI Women’s Continental Team.
“Really enjoyed a day out Everesting even if it involved much crying and swearing along the way,” she said. “Had a little breakdown at 45 reps when both weather and legs took a turn for the worse – and squirrely sheep nearly ruined the day!’
The weather was foggy and 13 degrees. “Five hours in everything bad seemed to happen at once,” Gardner told Cycling Tips.”The fog rolled in, my legs stopped working and two descents in a row I nearly got taken out by sheep. There were a few lurking on the roadside which decided to dart out right in front of me.”
Gardner says that she is grateful for her father, who sat in the fog for nine hours to support her, and thankful to (now former world record holder) Pooley, who provided her with inspiration to do the ride.