SHE works more than 40 hours a week helping run a state government agency, is married with a daughter and studies for a post-graduate law diploma at night and weekends. Yet Amanda Jones finds time to exercise between three to four hours every day.
Why? The 55-year-old is preparing to climb Mount Everest. And if she reaches the 8848-metre summit in May, she will become the oldest Australian woman to conquer the world's highest peak.
Ms Jones will attempt the climb with good friend New Zealand-born Annie Doyle, 54. The pair met 15 years ago when their children were with the nippers club at Manly beach and found they had a deep love of sport and a life-long interest in physical fitness and competing in extreme endurance events.
''Dad got me up for swimming training since I was about four years old,'' Ms Jones, the chief operating officer at Infrastructure NSW, said. ''It's a habit of a lifetime to train first thing in the morning. Annie and I have really been training for this for years.''
The pair have already climbed some of the highest peaks in the world, including the 6962-metre Mount Aconcagua in Argentina, the highest mountain in the Americas.
Ms Doyle, the chief financial officer at Sunnyfield, an organisation supporting people with intellectual disabilities, said they both regularly compete in 100-kilometre endurance hikes that force them to keep riding for more than 20 hours non-stop.
They wake each day at 4am, and either do a long hike carrying 20-kilogram backpacks, or run, lift weights, and do strength work with a personal trainer. There is more training each night after work.
To add variety, they go to a rockclimbing gym at St Leonards and run the sand dunes at Palm Beach for hours to boost endurance and strengthen their legs.
The women, who are joining a 10-week expedition with 21 climbers on March 29, must be fit to face the possibility of temperatures on Everest falling to minus 50 degrees and fierce winds whipping up to more than 60 knots.
The women expect to lose about 10 kilograms in body weight while they are away, burning up to 8000 calories a day climbing.
Before they are able to attempt the summit, the pair have to acclimatise to the altitude by making a two-week trek to the Everest Base Camp at 5200 metres. Then they will climb the nearby 6145-metre Mount Lobuche at least twice and make several training forays onto Everest before they attempt the final journey to the summit sometime in mid-May.
''Mountaineering is a natural progression from endurance events,'' Ms Doyle said. ''It's an endurance event on steroids.''
Both said there is a certain amount of fear attached to their adventure, but it will not hold them back. ''But you've also got to control that fear,'' Ms Doyle said. ''Everest is 30 per cent physical and 70 per cent mental. I think we're both mentally tough.''
Ms Jones believes someone of her age is probably better able to control their emotions during times of high stress.
''If something doesn't go right, it's about being able to pull back and keep it in perspective, take a deep breath,'' she said.
The women, who are paying their own way to Everest, are also raising money for Sunnyfield through a unique sponsorship program, On Top of the World, to coincide with the non-profit organisation's 60th anniversary.
For details go to sunnyfield.org.au