Updated: Sep 30, 2019
Ash Dykes very kindly agreed to a telephone interview which took place on the morning of Friday the 12th January 2018. I had to obviously prepare and the more I read I came to soon realise that this young adventurer had achieved some remarkable feats in such a short space of time. He is only 26!
Just to give you a flavour before we start of Ash’s notable
2 world records.
Giving a speech in the UK Parliament with Annie Lennox highlighting the devastation of Malaria in the world and how the UK is playing a great role in making a change.
2015 UK ADVENTURER OF THE YEAR
2016 WELSH ADVENTURER OF THE YEAR
Sir Ranulph Fiennes described his first record in Mongolia “an example of great determination, to achieve something that’s becoming harder all the time, an adventuring “first”
Mission Possible is Ash' recent book which covers his 2 record breaking adventures which we are pleased to say is doing well and is now being translated in to Mandarin.
A Special Ambassador for Malaria No More UK, the charity founded by Peter Chernin and Ray Chambers and supported by the Gates Foundation
Life Before Mongolia
At school Ash excelled in sport he competed in football, cross country enjoyed boxing which was later going to come in handy when he relies on Thai Boxing in Thailand to earn money on his travels.
You’d be surprised to hear Ash scraped a BTEC in Outdoor Education. In his own words he learns “kinesthetically hands on”. At the young age of 17 Ash put together a plan with Mat his best friend on how they were going to fund their first trip abroad.
Rather than study about what interested him he “wanted to get amongst it and get dirty”. The 17 year old Ash pinned pictures of the world map and pages from magazines on his bedroom wall as well as quotes to help him stay focused on his plan. Ash is a strong advocate of the Law of Attraction and visualization and believes that this is a great way of motivating yourself in the morning.
Ash became ultra-focused on counting the pennies. He left being a waiter for more pay being a life guard. Ash had spent time modifying his car but decided it had to go and instead purchase a bike for £50. He cycled to and from work each day travelling a total of 16 miles for 2 years. He sometimes woke up at 3:30 in the morning.
They also learnt scuba diving so that they could give lessons on their travels in case they ran out of money.
At this time in his life Ash didn’t really have any figures he followed in the world of adventure instead he drew inspiration from the greats in boxing and the Olympics by studying how different sporting personalities strove to succeed against adversity.
Aged 19, Ash and Mat had their first trip to China which was picked because “it was a country completely different to the UK”. Within a few weeks they had travelled the usual tourist routes but they had wanted to see the real China and the locals. This lead to them buying a bike for about £10 and cycling Cambodia and the length of Vietnam (1130 miles – 15 days).
Ash caught the adventure bug and started out on some very “reckless” adventures. From learning how to survive in the jungle with a Burmese Hill Tribe, hitch hiking the North of Australia, trekking the Himalayas, cycling a part of South Australia to name a few. It took him a few years to wise up and to plan for his biggest adventure yet.
The Mongolian Adventure
The Lonely Snow Leopard picked Mongolia because it was least discussed by the students and travellers he met on his travels. “Nobody ever talked about Mongolia” says Ash and so it became a big mystery to him. He became intrigued and was always drawn by different locations, off the beaten track. As he researched Mongolia he soon came to realise why it was not a common place to visit because of its extreme geography in the Altai mountains, the Gobi desert, the Mongolian Steppe and Mongolia is one of the last few places on the planet where nomadic life is still a living tradition.
Ash discovered that nobody had successfully crossed Mongolia solo & unsupported and that this would be a world first if he was successful.
Ash as ever became focused and disciplined in his training, his uncle gave him a tractor tyre which he flipped and hit with a sledge hammer to increase his core strength in his back garden! He trained even harder and was inspired by the words of an adventurer he had contacted for help who tried this same feat but failed. Ash was told to watch out for the drunken nomads, snow blizzards the dry wells… The email he was sent ended with the words “…incredible is the ability to continue no matter what”. Ash began to question their meaning and it actually worried him. "Nobody is incredible" says Ash, but this did get him thinking on what needed to be done. Ash just did what he knew best and that was to train and stay focused.
Ash travelled across this landlocked county between China and Russia on his own with a homemade wheeled trailer carrying all provisions needed to survive which weighed 40kg when empty (120kg on a full load). If he wanted help it would have taken his assistant based in the capital ONLY 3 days to reach him so this was to be one serious adventure! His trusty trailer was called Elder The Incredible.
The feat was obviously INCREDIBLE and the Gobi Desert gave Ash extreme heat during the day and cold in the evening to contend with. Ash used to take shelter from the sun for no more than 5 minutes under his trailer and willed himself to continue until he could reach civilisation. Had he stopped for too long or given up he would have died!
The locals called Ash his nickname The Lonely Snow Leopard because snow leopards roam the land on their own. He succeeded 1500 miles on foot whilst dragging his trailer across Mongolia and set his first world record.
The Madagascan Adventure
Ash a year later was drawn to Madagascar’s biodiversity - its wildlife and plant life around 80% of which cannot be found anywhere else in the world. From the landlocked country of Mongolia Ash picked Madagascar an Island country in the Indian Ocean (4th largest Island in the world) where plants and animals have evolved in relative isolation over millions of years.
This time it was a journey from the south of the Island to the north. He had a different guide at different stages of the adventure; 3 in total for translation purposes. He overcame malaria, the jungle, poisonous snakes and crocodiles and other dangers to make it his second world record. I asked Ash about the chicken head that is photographed popping out of the top of his backpack and he explains that it is a local tradition to set a white male chicken free at the highest peak to ward off the spirits. In fact it was a cockerel and he named the cockerel Gertrude. They then proceeded to have a drink of rum and honey (for the evil spirits to allow them back down safely). Ash explains to me that he “respects the local way” and really takes great pleasure to learn about the different cultures of the countries he visits.
Ash has recently written his first book to cover the 2 big adventures, how it all begun, with his early adventures, called Mission Possible which is now being translated in to Madarin.
Ash continues to train and stay focused he is a firm believer of mastering the basics. Starting the day with sit ups, press ups, squats and if you have a bar, pull ups are a great way to improve your core strength explains Ash. A great way to pump you up in the morning.
Ash has been asked to attend Downing Street twice but what really ranks even higher than this is the speech he gave with singer Annie Lennox in Parliament on the importance of the UK’s involvement in the world to help fight against Malaria. Malaria is close to Ash as he came close to death in Madagascar.
In 2016 Ash addressed Members of Parliament at a reception to celebrate the work of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria. Speaking alongside Annie Lennox OBE (formally with Eurythmics) Ash called on the UK Government to increase their funding to the Global Fund and continue UK leadership in the fight against malaria. A couple of months later the UK Government announced £1.1 billion for the Global Fund between 2017 and 2019, a 20% increase in funding. This money will save a further 8 million lives from malaria, HIV and TB by 2020.
What’s next for this superhero well he tells me that he is set for another world record attempt his biggest attempt yet of 4000 miles in March this year.
We will stay tuned and look forward to hearing more from this great adventurer.
To learn more about Ash you can connect with him on his social media Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and website ashdykes.com
We of course wish The Lonely Snow Leopard every success with his new adventure and look forward to hearing more details before the start.
Stay safe keep buzzing!