Shackleton Lecture 2019: Ash Dykes Adventurer and Extreme Athlete


On Wednesday, 18th of September 2019 we were honoured to host the adventurer and extreme athlete Ash Dykes, who presented this year's Shackleton Lecture. The Shackleton Lecture is a Dulwich tradition that honours the legacy of Ernest Shackleton, (a Dulwich College Alumni, whose indomitable pioneering spirit and heroism clearly embodied Dulwich Values). 

Ash Dykes is growing in fame and prestige year upon year as he persists in pushing the boundaries of what is possible for human beings to achieve.  On the 5th of August 2014, Ash Dykes became the first recorded person to complete a solo & unsupported walk across Mongolia. From West to East, Ash trekked 1,500 miles over the Altai Mountains, battling heat exhaustion in the Gobi Desert, whilst pulling 120kg (18st) of survival supplies on a homemade trailer.


In February 2016 – Ash became the first recorded person ever to traverse Madagascar's length, through its interior, taking on eight of the highest mountains on the fourth largest island in the world, trekking 1,600 miles in 155 days. During this incredible adventure, he was held up by the military, bitten by spiders, caught Malaria and built a raft to traverse a crocodile-infested river. He was recently announced as the UK Ambassador for Tourism in Madagascar.


This year, he became the first human being ever to walk the length of the Yangtze river. His journey began at the source of the river (at very high altitudes on the Tibetan plateau) and finished near Shanghai. His finish was delayed by two days after Shanghai was hit by Typhoon Lekima. The river Yangtze, at 3,900 miles (6,300km) is the longest river in the world to flow through a single country.

Ash is an inspirational speaker whose actions speak louder than words. He pushes himself beyond the limits of human endurance, redefining what is possible. In his highly engaging lecture, he covered all of his major achievements in detail and explained how he started out as a professional adventurer. In each section of the presentation, Ash played videos which included the visual highlights of each trip, as well as showcasing Ash's athletic physique.


Perhaps the most compelling part of the lecture was when Ash described the gruelling challenge he faced when crossing the Gobi desert, while suffering from sunstroke and heat exhaustion. He explained that he was only able to cover the vast distance by breaking it down to 100meters at a time. According to Ash, by turning an insurmountable task into a series of manageable chunks, the impossible becomes manageable.


The response of our students was a great testament to how engaging Ash's lecture was. At the end of his presentation, students were invited to ask questions and a sea of hands shot up! Our students asked a range of thoughtful and intelligent questions including:


  • What do your Parents think about your adventures?

         They were scared at first, but now fully support Ash.

  • How did you charge your electronic devices in the Gobi Desert?

         Solar panels work really well in the Gobi Desert!

  • Do you earn much money via sponsorship deals?

         Ash has a deal with who supply sustainable water bottles with a Nano technology filtration system that allowed Ash to drink water from the Yangtze.

  • You are a very handsome man! Can you give me a signed photograph?

         Ash had plenty of copies of his Book called “Mission Possible” that he was happy to sign!


After delivering his wonderful presentation to three separate year groups, Ash kindly agreed to be interviewed by a small group of our students. Please see the highlights of this interview below. 

Ash delivered a fascinating, positive, upbeat and inspirational Shackleton lecture that our students will never forget. We wish him every success in his future adventures, the next of which, Ash hinted, would also be in China!