Ash Dykes: Walking the Yangtze

Ash Dykes in Madagascar. Can you spot the chicken in his rucksack? He was given this by locals to ward off evil spirits. Photo: Suzanna Tierie

At 6,380 kilometers from source to sea, the Yangtze is Asia’s longest river. In few days, British adventurer Ash Dykes will set out to walk along the entire river in about a year.

Dykes will start the trek at over 5,000 meters, at the base of the Jianggendiru Glacier on the Tibetan Plateau. The Chinese government claims that this is the source of the Yangtze, although this may more a political than a factual choice: Having the highest source of any major river in the world would be a public relations coup, and even Dykes himself makes this claim about the Yangtze. However, the Nevado Mismi, accepted by many as the true source of the Amazon, is a few hundred meters higher.

Exaggerations aside, this remains a significant undertaking of over 6,000 kilometers on foot through mountains, dense forest and steep gorges. No word yet on how Dykes will make his way around or up those gorges that line a significant part of the middle section of the Yangtze.

Weaving west to east across China, Dykes will finish at the river’s delta near Shanghai, where the Yangtze meets the East China Sea.

The rough route of the Yangtze River expedition. Photo: Ash Dykes

Previously, Dykes walked 2,400 kilometers across the length of Mongolia in 2014 and a further 2,500 kilometers across Mongolia two years later, taking in the Altai Mountains and a section of the Gobi desert in the process.

The determined Brit anticipates a number of challenges. “It’s not like the Amazon where it’s a lot of jungle, or the Nile where it’s constantly hot,” he says. “You’ve got sub-zero temperatures and glaciers in the far west of China, with the altitude, the blizzards, the isolation, the brown bears… Then you drop down off the glacier … into a tropical, more forested area.”

For the first few months, a television crew will follow Dykes and a guide will help carry the gear, but after that, he is on his own.


The River at the Centre of the World: A Journey Up the Yangtze, and Back in Chinese Time

Intrigues of the Illusive Yangtze Source

Where Does the Amazon River Begin?

Interview: Piotr Chmielinski, True Source of Amazon River (Part 2 of 3)

About the Author

Ash Routen

Ash Routen

Ash Routen is an outdoor and adventure writer from the UK specialising in adventurous travel and expeditions, such as mountaineering, polar travel, and ocean crossings. Ash juggles a day job as a public health scientist with this second career in outdoor writing.

His words have featured in national newspapers, national and international outdoor and adventure magazines, and various websites. Bylines include Financial Times, Daily Telegraph, Outside Magazine, Rock and Ice, and Red Bull.

Alongside writing, Ash also spends some time undertaking his own adventures, and completed a 640 km foot crossing of a frozen Lake Baikal in 2018. His next arctic journey is a 700 km trek along the coast of Baffin Island in Canada.


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