By David Saunders, Health Editor
British explorer, Ash Dykes (28), is set complete his third ‘world first’ on Thursday 8 August 2019 when he arrives in Shanghai, having been the first person ever to traverse the 4,000-mile Yangtze River in China on foot.
he expedition has not only been a huge personal achievement, but has also seen Ash get involved in several important conservation projects along the way including initiatives for World Wildlife Foundation and Water To Go.
Ash has overcome many difficult and extreme physical and mental challenges to achieve this third world first. At the very beginning, the source of the Yangtze River (at 5,100m almost the same height as Mount Everest base camp) was difficult to reach and four of his team left the expedition before it even began due to altitude sickness and the very real possibility of bear and wolf attacks.
It wasn’t long after they left that Ash was followed for two days by a pack of wolves, which had killed someone only 24 hours previously.
In addition, Ash faced extreme weather conditions and at the start of his trek, he tackled blizzards and temperatures as low as -20°C while at the end of his journey he endured extreme heat of up to 40°C.
Commenting on his latest expedition, Ash said: “This is more than a personal achievement; it is unlocking human potential and showcasing that in a world where every corner of the planet is occupied by people, there are still things that haven’t been done.
I’ve shared my journeys with millions around the world, with the message ‘if I can, then you can too’. We must enjoy this world we live in, but also highlight issues, showcase the positives and most importantly, protect it.
“Of course, this is far from just a challenging journey, it’s a cultural one. I’ve been extremely fortunate to experience the wonderful hospitality, traditions and cultures of the people of China, both rural and urban, in all its diversity. China has really taken me to its heart and I’m overwhelmed by the support I’ve received across the country.
“I’ve worked with the Green Development Foundation, WWF and many other organisations and it’s been a privilege to capture and share their work.
“Throughout my journey, I’ve also been able to take note of the amount of plastics and pollution that I’ve seen from source to sea. The good news is that I’ve also seen a huge increase in knowledge and understanding within the communities, towns and cities along the way. People are aware of the damage being caused to their water sources and are now actively changing their ways for the better – it’s inspiring to see.
“Having had huge support from the Chinese media and people, this has not only been one of my most ambitious journeys, but also most enjoyable. It’s been amazing to be able to share the whole journey on my social media, including Instagram and Facebook, as one of the most interactive world firsts.”
Ash’s world first along the Yangtze River follows world firsts in Mongolia and Madagascar.
In 2014, aged just 24, Ash became the first recorded person to walk the length of Mongolia from west to east, solo and unsupported. He trekked 1,500 miles over the Altai Mountains, through the Gobi Desert and across the Mongolian Steppe, while pulling 120kg/18st of survival supplies on a homemade trailer – in just 78 days!
Two years later in 2016, he became the first recorded person to traverse the length of inland Madagascar, trekking 1,600 miles in just 155 days and climbing eight of the country’s highest mountains. Here, he contracted the deadliest strain of Malaria, was held up by the military, avoided bandits, received spider bites, built rafts to cross dangerous, crocodile-infested waters and hacked his way through near-impenetrable jungle to achieve his goal.
Ash concludes: “This trip was extremely challenging but truly incredible and the people I met along the way have spurred me on and made it all worthwhile.
“We’ve captured the whole journey, as it was professionally filmed and we are preparing for an international TV commission. I’d also like to thank all those who joined me along the way and my teams for showing such immense support. I will be sad to leave the country, but I’ll be returning to China in September for an Asia wide speaking tour.
“When I return to the UK again I’ll start working on some exciting new projects – so watch this space!”
To find out more about Ash Dykes visit www.ashdykes.com or Instagram @ash_dykes