British explorer completes first 4,000-mile trek along China's Yangtze River

A challenge that saw extreme temperatures, altitude sickness and a pack of wolves
World first 4,000-mile trek across China

Ash Dykes has become the first man to walk the entire 4,000-mile length of the Yangtze River in China, finishing the expedition on 12 August 2019.

The challenge saw the 28-year-old adventurer walk from the source of the Yangtze River in the Jianggendiru Glacier, a location that sits at 5,100m (the same elevation as Everest Basecamp), to the river's delta in Shanghai.

The world first wasn't without difficulties, with four of the party leaving the expedition before it had even started due to altitude sickness whilst reaching the river source.

Dangerous animals also posed a significant risk for the challenge, with Ash followed for two days by a pack of wolves in the early stages – made worse by the fact that the animals were reported to have killed someone 24 hours previously.

Ash also faced extreme weather along the way, including blizzards and temperatures as low as -20°C at the start of his journey and extreme heat of up to 45°C by the final stages.

The expedition isn't the first undertaken by Ash. At 24 he traversed the 1,500-mile length of Mongolia in 78 days, with an 18-stone survival trailer, solo and unsupported.

He followed that with a 1,600-mile trek through Madagascar at 26, summiting the eight highest mountains along the way. During the attempt he contracted the deadliest strain of malaria, was held up at gun point, avoided bandits, crossed crocodile-infested waters on self-built rafts and hacked his way through near-impenetrable jungle.

British explorer completes first 4,000 mile trek along China's Yangtze River
Credit: Ash Dykes

The Yangtze River challenge partnered with a number of initiatives along the way, including East China's launch of the country’s ‘Green is GREAT’ campaign, the World Wildlife Foundation, Water-To-Go, Yibin Fishery Protection and Green Development Foundation.

Commenting on the expedition, Ash said: “It’s an unreal feeling to cross the finish line. It took two years to plan and one year to execute, so it’ll take a while to sink in. But it’s such a special moment – history is created.

“This has been 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.

British explorer completes first 4,000 mile trek along China's Yangtze River
Credit: Ash Dykes

“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."

Ash concluded: “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."

Main image credit: Ash Dykes

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