This weekend 25 women will climb on their bikes and attempt to notch up at least 8,848 metres of climbing on Mt Donna Buang near Melbourne. It is the biggest mass Everesting attempt since the extreme vertical challenge was launched nearly a year ago.

The women, who range from seasoned Everesters to newcomers to the challenge of endurance climbing, will ride over 250km as they climb and descend the mountain more than eight times. They will start at midnight, with only their lights to guide them in the first dark hours of what is likely to be a 20-hour effort on Saturday.

“If these women can attempt this challenge and just through this story they can inspire and challenge other women to take on their own challenges – their own personal Everests whatever they are – that is the absolute goal of the event,” said CyclingTips Business Development Manager and Hells 500 founder Andy van Bergen, who has organised the event.

Everesting involves cycling multiple laps of one climb to achieve a vertical ascent equal to the height of the world’s tallest mountain. The concept was launched by the climbing-focussed riding group, Hells 500, but was inspired by the efforts of George Mallory, the grandson of the British mountaineer of the same name. Mallory cycled up Mt Donna Buang repeatedly as training for his own expedition to Mt Everest and decided 8,848 metres of ascent was therefore a fitting target for his efforts on the bike.

On Saturday what began as an individual challenge will be the largest-ever group effort on Mt Donna Buang. Hundreds of cyclists are expected to turn out and ride one lap or more as a show of support for the 25 women in an event organised by Domestique. Many others have also sent messages of encouragement or helped with the preparations. The riders have had access to a first aid course, descending lessons and a training plan put together by former professional cyclist Kevin Benkenstein, who has completed a successful Everesting.

Meet some of the women who are taking on this formidable challenge:

Image Kirsty Baxter

Image Kirsty Baxter

Anna Thomson

Thomson, who works in communications and co-founded women’s cycle clothing group Fondo, started riding about three years ago. The 30-year-old said she wasn’t a natural at cycling for a start and initially her riding didn’t progress at the rate she wanted but instead of giving up she just decided to train more. She quickly learnt that the way to get more out of herself on the bike was to put more in. Her biggest single-day on the bike so far has been 200 kilometres with an ascent of about 2,500 metres.

Why did you become involved?

“I love a challenge and the concept of riding with the 24 other women was really appealing because I had never ever considered I would even attempt an Everest at all. I think it is the fact that there would be support and you wouldn’t just be riding on your own – you would be doing it with your mates,” said Thomson.

“I really hope it does inspire other girls to have a go at something like this that they might otherwise not consider. I think that is what is great about women’s cycling – it is women encouraging other women and it is so powerful.”

What do you think is going to be your biggest challenge?

“It’s the mental challenge … because I know it is going to hurt, it’s just whether or not I can convince myself to keep pedalling.”

How do you feel about it now that it is getting close?

“The closer it gets the more nervous I get,” said Thomson. She said it was the battles of the mind that loomed largest. “I figure it is just riding – right? That’s what we do anyway all the time. I can ride a bike and I can keep pedalling. As long as I can do it over that length of time I will be OK.”

Image: Con Chronis

Image: Con Chronis

Verita Stewart

The 27-year-old environment officer only took to riding about two years ago. When she isn’t working, she can usually be found racing her bike. Last month Stewart raced the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, the Santos Women’s Tour and the Mars Cycling Australia Road National Championships. The hectic race schedule has left the Specialized Securitor rider with little time to fit in specific endurance-focussed training for the challenge, but she has had plenty of practice at pushing herself hard on the bike.

Why did you become involved?

“When it was presented to me as a fully supported event it made it way more achievable and I would absolutely kick myself if I missed out on being involved. It’s great for women’s cycling and I am so grateful to have the chance to be a part of it,” said Stewart, who has long been interested in Everesting but had previously thought it would be too hard to fit in around her racing.

What do you think is going to be your biggest challenge?

“It seems such an unachievable goal. I have never done anything like this and I can’t compare it to anything so it is one of those things that is just an unknown. For me, it is going to be the mental barrier that will probably appear somewhere along the road that is going to be the hardest. In saying that there are going to be so many people there and I think I am going to be distracted by everything else that is going on – I hope that mental barrier never appears.”

How do you feel now that it is getting close?

Stewart said what was preoccupying her most in the run up to the ride was not the scale of the task but the details that would make her more comfortable on the day, such as how many layers of clothing to wear and what to eat. “It is funny that everything else can seem so mountainous but then the little tiny things that are very important come up.”

Image provided by Katya Crema

Image provided by Katya Crema

Katya Crema

Crema is no stranger to pushing her physical limits, but it is usually on skis. The 26-year-old Olympian came seventh in the ski cross at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, her second Olympics, and has cycled for many years as cross-training. The 8,848 metres of ascent will be more than twice as much as the sales and marketing manager’s biggest day of climbing so far.

Why did you become involved?

“Firstly, it’s such an incredible challenge to take on that if I achieve it I think it will be pretty rewarding. The second appealing factor was the fact that the aim was to get 25 women together so we were united in this challenge. That was what got me across the line. I don’t think I would go out and do an Everest by myself,” said Crema.

What do you think is going to be the biggest challenge?

“I think it is going to be the amount of time on the bike. I think it is going to be getting the nutrition right … and also the lack of sleep. The other thing is going to be descending in the dark.”

How do you feel now that it is getting close?

“I am definitely nervous. I kind of just want it to be here now because I am lying in bed at night running through lists of what I have got to do, what I have got to prepare. I am looking forward to doing it and getting it over and done with.

Image Caz Whitehead

Image Caz Whitehead

Sarah Hammond

The 34-year-old, who works in media and marketing, is one of the experienced hands taking on the ride, having Everested twice before. She picked up a bike five or six years ago and then discovered the satisfaction of taking on tough upward sloping roads with Hells 500.

When the whole concept of Everesting was born she was captured by the ridiculous scale of the challenge and quickly set out to conquer the task on Mt Buffalo. On her second Everesting attempt she ramped up the difficulty by taking on a dirt climb and this time she plans to push her limits again, targeting a total ascent of 10,000 metres.

Why did you become involved?

“I love the thought of the focus being on women this time around,” said Hammond. “I am not doing it because I am out there to hurt myself again, because I know how it feels already, for me it’s getting the others across the line.”

What do you think is going to be your biggest challenge?

“I know I can do the distance (8,848 metres) but I want to see if I can get that extra lap and target 10,000 … I am determined to try and give it a nudge. Once you start ticking boxes you need to keep finding more ridiculous ones.”

How do you feel now that it is getting close?

“With Buffalo I was manic for a week beforehand, now I know what I am in for. At the end of the day you get on your bike and ride it. I am a lot more relaxed because I have been there, done that.”

Still, that doesn’t mean she is taking a third Everesting for granted. “The nerves will always be there because it doesn’t matter how much you prepare for something it is always in the hands of the gods on the day. You can wake up having done everything possible to prepare and your legs aren’t there.”