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Starting at one of the highest sources of any major river system in the world, with bone-cracking temperature drops, treacherous deathly cliff-edges, wolves, bears, snakes, and locals who could startle at the sight of a newcomer, the complete 6,437km length of the Yangtze River has never been walked before, and for good reason too.
But nothing could have prepared Ash for what was to come.
Ash fully pumped ahead of starting his #MissionYangtze expedition
The expedition launched on a fantastic high. Press coverage, social media followers and #TeamAsh were all supporting his determination to make great progress on his first day. However the high was short-lived.
Through a series of unexpected developments, Ash's progress was slowed down, and the end result could see the entire expedition in jeopardy.
Trouble was on the horizon for Ash
Ash's unrivalled stamina, determination and will to explore have led him to two prior World First records, with #MissionYangtze aiming to become his third. Ash relies on his team to support him with logistics, filming and sharing his near-impossible achievements with his followers. The key to having a strong and supportive team is their suitability for the task at hand so the field team with him on the ground in China need to be able to survive and sustain themselves in the harsh environments they are set to endure while out with Ash.
The first sign of disaster struck Ash on day one when his video crew weren't coping with the bodily impacts of thin oxygen levels at 5,000-metre altitude, and still needed to climb another 400m+.
One member was experiencing painful headaches and shortage of breath while the other was continuously shivering and was in fear of what lay ahead. Once they concluded they wouldn't be able to go on, unfortunately they had to leave to re-acclimatise at normal altitude.
While Ash was frustrated with the situation, his priority is, was and will always be the health and wellbeing of his team members, and he encouraged them to leave and seek the medical attention they needed.
Ash continued on towards the start point for the expedition, with his drone, GoPro and other satellite-backed technology, ensuring he could interact and share his progress with the world until a new film crew could join him within a week, while remaining accompanied by his local guide and a horse. However things started to go from bad to worse.
Ash's crew, horse and local guide
Ash's guide, the local who was experienced in very harsh environments, unfortunately also started to experience symptoms of severe lack of oxygen, nose bleeds, and fear of the land ahead. To make things even more difficult, his feet were incredibly swollen and blistered.
Ash could see where this was going, and while he'd never felt so unbreakable himself, he simply couldn't ignore his guide's advice to return back down to normal oxygen levels and civilisation. The guide warned Ash not to continue alone (or indeed at all). He advised that there were locals in the next section of the expedition who could do Ash some serious harm if he came in contact with them, along with the fact the bears were a real threat during the next stage of the journey.
Ash is immovable in his belief that his team members should always come first. So he didn't hesitate to escort his local guide back down from the incredible heights of North West China to seek the medical attention his guide desperately needed.
A disheartened Ash meets his horse and heads down to civilisation
What's next?Ash himself is in fantastic shape, and ready to continue #MissionYangtze.
While he was well prepared for the natural impacts on his own body, the environmental challenges and survival in sub-zero temperatures, Ash could never prepare for the humanitarian sacrifices he'd have to make on the mission.
Ash has now returned back to Zadou in North-West China, after making fantastic progress following the Yangtze River within his first week. Ash is now in talks with his Chinese media and tour partners to establish a new field support team and aims to head back to recommence his expedition next week. Stay tuned for updates!
Ash had already covered an area that could be seen from space. His live tracker will launch when the expedition resumes next week.