British adventurer and extreme athlete Ash Dykes, from North Wales, has just arrived at his first major milestone during Mission Yangtze, his third world-first record attempt to walk the entire 4,000 mile length of the Yangtze river in China - one the world’s genuine and last remaining world-firsts.
After setting off in late August, Ash has completed the first 550 miles and has arrived at his first city - Yushu, situated in Qinghai province in the west of China.
In the first five weeks of the expedition Ash has faced and overcome a number of serious situations:-
Within the first three days of attempting to make it to the source of the Yangtze, one of the highest sources of any major river at over 5,100 metres, Ash’s first film crew left the expedition due to the harsh conditions and altitude. Ash’s Tibetan guide then began suffering with serious symptoms of altitude sickness, which forced Ash to temporarily abort the mission and get his guide off the mountains to receive medical attention.
After quickly finding another guide so he could re-start the expedition before the weather conditions worsened with the change of seasons, he finally made it to the true scientific source of the Yangtze.
Once officially underway, Ash, his two guides Bima and Tuda, and his horse Castor Troy, faced -20C temperatures, blizzards, treks along mountain passes over 5,000 meters high, glacial river crossings, cliff faces and threats from wolves and bears. One morning, they awoke to fresh bear prints outside their tents and saw a bear close by. On a few occasions whilst walking at night, Ash and his guides would feel the need to blow their whistle to make bears aware of their presence, in the hope they’d stay well clear.
Only five days ago, Ash was solo and had to fend off a dog attack from two highly aggressive guard dogs, one being a Tibetan mastiff. Extremely exhausted, he managed to escape unharmed.
It hasn’t all been drama though, Ash has so far seen some of the wildest and remotest parts of China, has been warmly welcomed inside the locals’ gers (tents) and invited to stay with a Tibetan family to experience their way of life.
Ash said, “This is the true wild west of Asia, in all its beauty. The sheer scale and isolation of this vast landscape should not be underestimated, and it certainly makes you feel vulnerable and insignificant at times.”
Aiming to make this one of the world’s most interactive expeditions, thanks to the Navarino sat comms Ash is carrying, he has been able to take his many followers along with him from a virtual perspective and has continued to post photos, videos and even live-streams to ensure his audience remain connected with his adventure.
Ash has also partnered with the Green Foundation and has been educated regarding plastic pollution in this area and the nomads' perspective of it.
Water-To-Go China have partnered with Ash and will join him at certain sections en route, to educate local communities on plastic pollution and provide water filtration bottles, which give them access to fresh drinking water. One Water-To-Go bottle eradicates 200 single-use plastic bottles.
Ash says, “It is tough and draining to say the least, but I enjoy what happens along the way, from the people I meet, the challenges I face, the scenes I witness, wildlife I encounter, stories I’m able to share, survival and all the rest of the magic that inevitably happens during the process. I feel fortunate to be able to help and hopefully motivate, inspire, educate and work with some of the biggest education authorities along the way, answering peoples’ questions and showcasing the true beauty of China!
"I’ve faced so many difficulties and challenges, but I’m so excited to have arrived in Yushu. There was a part of me that found it difficult to visualise my arrival here, just because of the almost daily setbacks. The backpack has been extremely heavy at over 30kg and I’ve faced many mountain passes and harsh weather conditions, often averaging 18 to 20 miles per day. This time now is for me to stock up, refuel, recharge and get set for the next section, which sees me following the Yangtze directly south towards Lijiang in Yunnan province.
"I’m slightly overwhelmed with how demanding it’s been, but feel it’s broken me in as hard and as fast as it possibly could, and I’m ready for the next chapter. I will continue to go live and post updates in real time along my journey with the help and support from my UK team, so please join me (virtually) and follow the journey via Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. You can also track me live on my website www.ashdykes.com.”
The Yangtze River is the longest river to run through a single nation and the third longest river in the world. Ash expects the expedition to take about 8 million steps and a year to complete.