On the 7th January 2016, I embarked on a unique overland journey starting in Hong Kong, and due to end in Istanbul, on the opposite side of Asia. My aims where three-fold: travel overland along the mountainous spine of Asia, from the jungles of the south east, to the frozen heartlands of Tibet and Central Asia, to the alluring peaks of the Caucusus and Turkey. Secondly, I aimed to climb at least one mountain in each country, while, thirdly, also documenting the various human communities which reside in the mountains.

 

In November 2015, I launched a campaign to help make my journey possible. Here's my promotional video (click video settings to watch in full HD):

Over the next few weeks, thanks to many generous people from around the world, I ran a successful Kickstarter Campaign, gained four Sponsors (Travel website, Smaller Earth; Kit Manufacturer, Lowe Alpine, and construction companies, In Touch With Bricks and Brickstore), partnered with two local primary schools, and signed a video, photograph and blog deal. My campaign became a success with days to spare, and so I could begin my journey.

 

For the next 108 days of winter, I travelled by any means through eleven mountainous countries: [Hong Kong], Vietnam, Laos, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, ArmeniaGeorgia and Turkey. I winter-soloed three 4000+ metre peaks - in Yunnan (China), Tibet and Kyrgyzstan - summited Fansipan, the highest mountain in Indochina, plus several unnnamed peaks testing conditions, which lie firmly off the beaten track.

 

During my journey, I faced many other challenges. I was interogated at several border crossings, detained for four days in Uzbekistan, spied upon in a remote Uzbek village and stalked by police in Tibet. I ran out of cash, was threatened and asked for bribes from officials. I dodged avalanches and frostbite. I was hindered by mountain blizzards, lost in a land-mined jungle and on the trail of fresh wolf and bear tracks.

 

But the moments of euphoria far superceded the challenges. I enjoyed three seperate New Years' celebrations with the locals in China, Tibet and Tajikistan, found a set of scarcely-known dinosaur footprints in a remote Tajik valley, was the only foreigner in a secretive Tibetan festival, slept on high mountain ridges below shooting stars and the Milky Way, was welcomed into countless homes, invited for countless meals, offered countless gifts and enveloped by immeasurable warmth by every community I visited. Indeed, it was not the mountains, but the people I met, of all creeds, who became the beating heart of my journey.

 

You can read more about my journey in the Travel Writing section of my website and see photos in the Photography section. I am currently writing a book which documents my journey. For any further information about this, please contact me.

 

Finally, I am very proud to share this six minute video, shot wholly by myself, which I feel gives a real taste of pan-Asian adventure. I hope you enjoy.

 

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© Oliver France