After being the world’s first person to trek solo through the Altai Mountain and Gobi Desert in Mongolia to conquering Madagascar’s rugged terrain, Ash Dykes will embark on a yearlong journey to walk the entire length of the 6,440-kilometer Yangtze River this month. Before his departure, Dykes tells us about his preparation for the trip, and a few memorable brushes with death he has encountered on his record-setting journeys.
Why did you decide to take on the Yangtze River as your next challenge?
When I first visited China in 2010 (aged 19), I knew that one day I would return to take on something epic through the heart of the country. The Yangtze carves through so much of China’s beauty and diversity; I knew it would offer a unique experience.
Can you tell us more about your route?
I’ll start in the southern part of Qinghai at over 5,100 meters above sea level, trekking through the mountains for a few months before entering southwest Yunnan through the V-shaped valleys. This is also the first bend of the Yangtze, which leads me northeast through a more populated section, but with equally tough terrain. From the halfway point near Yibin (in Sichuan), I’ll continue to head east until I reach Shanghai, where the Yangtze pours into the East China Sea. The whole journey will take me around one year to complete, with an anticipated step count of over 8 million.
What are you most looking forward to on this trip?
Besides the challenges, the people, the food, wildlife and culture, I also look forward to sharing the journey, as it will be one of the world’s most interactive expeditions, whereby I’ll be livestreaming, posting photos, videos and blogs. I also look forward to giving back to the local communities; I’ll be carrying ‘Water-To-Go’ filter bottles with me, which gives me access to clean drinking water the entire time thanks to a high-tech built-in filter. Their team will be meeting me during different sections of the trip to provide local communities with these bottles, too.
How are you preparing for this trip? Any adjustments to your workout routine and diet?
I have always trained hard. It’s something that I’m very passionate about. For the Yangtze, I have trained a lot in calisthenics, including balance, coordination, agility, flexibility, and so on. It’s important that my body is durable and able to withstand the various challenges I’ll face.
“The anticipated step count is over 8 million”
During your previous adventures, what was the most dangerous situation that you encountered?
There have been many dangerous situations, from being held up at gunpoint by the military in Madagascar and crossing crocodile-infested rivers, to catching the deadliest strain of malaria and almost losing my life in the Gobi Desert in Mongolia. But what matters more than challenges you face and the mistakes you make, is what you’re able to learn from them.
If you were stranded on an island and can only bring three things with you, what would they be?
I would bring a knife, a fire flint and a Water-To-Go filter bottle. All of these can help me hunt and gather, build a shelter, cook and stay hydrated while I find a way to escape. If I could add one more item, it would be my music player.
Do you have a go-to song for these adventures?
One song that has never left my music player since I started traveling in 2010 is Moby’s ‘Porcelain.’