It has been some time since we last checked in on Ash Dykes, the Welsh adventurer who set out last year to walk the length of the Yangtze River in China. But as I continue to work on catching up with all of the significant events that occurred while I was away in Africa, I’ve also learned that just prior to my departure he finished up this epic undertaking at long last.
Dykes began his Yangtze trek almost exactly a year before he finished, launching the expedition last August from the source of the river on the Tibetan Plateau. Those headwaters are found at 5100 meters (16,730 ft) in altitude, which made for a challenging and difficult start. Several of the explorer’s companions in those early days were forced to abandon the trek to due to altitude sickness. Fortunately, he was able to soldier on and things got better as he descended in altitude.
That isn’t to say that the journey was a walk in the park however. As the weeks and months passed, Dykes faced a number of hurdles throughout the trek, including encounter bears and wolves along the way, having to work his way around and over landslides that blocked the route, and being detained by authorities who were suspicious of his activity at times. Worst of all, as the seasons changed from summer to autumn to winter, he also encountered some extremely cold temperatures, blizzards, and other weather activity too.
In fact, the weather would become one of his biggest foes, right up to the end. As he approached the finish line in Shanghai a few weeks back, Typhoon Lekima was just making landfall. This forced him to hole up for two extra days to wait out the storm, but eventually he was able to resume the hike and finish up a bit ahead of schedule. In the end, he ended up trekking more than 4000 miles (6437 km), becoming the first to walk the entire length of the third longest river in the world.
The trend of hiking the length of very long rivers has become a fairly popular one since Ed Stafford completed the Amazon back in 2010. In terms of 21st century exploration and adventure, these expeditions have been interesting and fairly unique to say the least. Over that time, we’ve seen others walk the length of the Nile, the Zambezi, and other major rivers. Now, we can add Dykes’s accomplishment to the list too. Congratulations to Ash on this impressive feat.
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