The world’s greatest living explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes has praised a young Welsh adventurer for becoming the first person to walk 1,500 miles solo across Mongolia.
Ash Dykes, 23, walked into the record books after spending 78 days alone crossing the unforgiving land of the high Altai Mountains, scorching Gobi Desert and the seemingly-endless Mongolian Steppe.
Fearless explorer Sir Ranulph said he applauded him for competing one of last remaining “adventuring firsts”.
The explorer, who was first to reach both Poles, first to cross the Antarctic and Arctic Ocean, and the first to circumnavigate the world along its polar axis, said it was “an example of great determination”.
Sir Ranulph said: “I applaud every endeavour to achieve an adventuring ‘first’ – a feat which is becoming harder all the time.
“This young man’s completion of a ‘first’ solo trek across Mongolia, from the Altai to the Steppe, will have proved both physically and mentally challenging and is an example of great determination.”
Ash battled raging sandstorms, crippling heat exhaustion and the unrelenting loneliness of crossing the world’s most sparsely populated country at walking pace.
Word even spread among the local Mongols about the strange foreigner walking across the country – and the young Welshman was soon nicknamed the “lonely snow leopard”.
But after 78 days of travelling alone and unsupported Ash, from Colwyn Bay, became the first known person to walk from Mongolia’s western border with Russia to its easterly border with China.
After completing his record-breaking trek on August 6, he said: “It is an absolutely unreal feeling. It still hasn’t really sunk in, it feels surreal.
“There have been so many unforgettable experiences on this trek it is impossible to list them all.
“Throughout the expedition I felt privileged to see the country first hand and witness its diverse landscape and unpredictable climate.”
Ash dragged a 120kg home-made trailer behind him all the way from the small settlement of Olggi in the West to the town of Choybalsan in the East.
It carried the dehydrated food ration packs, 25-litre water butt and camping equipment he needed on his trek through all the brutal terrain thrown at it.
His longest day of walking saw him on his feet for 14 hours as he covered 55km. And he reached a peak altitude of 2,700m along the way.
Mongolia is the second-largest landlocked country on earth at 603,930 square miles and the most sparsely populated with only 3,133,318 people - averaging just 5.19 people to every one square mile.
By Will Humphries, Wales News Service