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 is an outdoor and adventure writer from the UK. He juggles a day job as a public health scientist with a second career in outdoor writing.

His words have featured in national newspapers, international magazines, and on various websites. Major bylines include Financial Times, Daily Telegraph, Porsche, Outside Magazine, Rock and Ice, and Red Bull.

He holds two degrees in Exercise and Health Sciences, and a PhD in Public Health.

His areas of expertise are polar expeditions, mountaineering, hiking, and adventure travel. In his spare time Ash enjoys going on small independent sledding expeditions, outdoor photography, and reading adventure literature.

Read more at or follow Ash via @ashrouten on Twitter and Instagram.

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