I might be getting closer to home, but the mountains of Turkey are no less wild than any of those I've visited across Asia.
I'm in the Kackar Mountains of the country's far north east. They form an alpine barrier between the Black Sea to the north and the scorching highlands to the south. Just getting here involved more research and uncertainty than almost anywhere yet. But yesterday afternoon I arrived in the town of Ayder (1300m) the jumping off point for the more remote villages beyond.
I left my surplus gear at a local hotel and set out for a tiny village named Asagi Kavrun, normally home to the little known Hemshin people, a curious bagpipe-playing, bee-keeping community borne out of these mountains some 1700 years ago.
As I ascended the valley the conditions became more hostile, with countless fallen avalanches impeding my trail, some truly colossal in size.
12km later, I reached a ghost town at dusk. Asagi Kavrun was empty. The doors of the stone houses were locked. I called through a broken window but nobody replied. It was an eerie place.
Needing to make camp, I crossed a precarious snow bridge over a river and set my bivi at 2100m. Darkness fell but a bright moon illuminated the snowy mountains.
I was settled by a melting ice gully, whose trickling water resembled the sound of a panting bear in the nearby pine forest. It made for an unsettling start to the night. To ease my nerves, I hung my food from a tree 100 yards away, built a small fire, and surrounded my camp with large branches. Indeed, I'm still unsure if the bear-like noises were delusions or not. They, along with wolves, are widespread here.
Shortly though, I enjoyed a deep sleep, waking at 5am for my dawn attack on a nearby summit. There was evidence of avalanches on every corner of the Kackar mountains, and the warm daytime conditions meant that starting early was my safest choice. Leaving most of my gear at camp, I pursued a complex series of mounds, ridges and gullies, sticking to exposed land where possible, to reach the summit of Bestas Tepesi (2930m) just after 7am. I made a fast descent as the sun burnt through cloud to strike the ridge above.
Another fantastic adrenaline-filled climb to mark the end of an incredible twelve days, where I've climbed four mountains in four countries.
This is it. I stand on the boundary of Asia's final outpost, the bridge across Istanbul. Ahead of me: Europe, and the finish line for my transcontinental journey. 108 days ago I arrived in Hong Kong. Since then, I've traversed eleven countries and eight thousand miles, climbed fourteen mountains, and travelled into some of the remotest corners of Asia. The mountains - of ice, snow, rock, mud, grass, jungle and scree - have been as diverse and interesting as the many cultures I've explored.
I quit my job and threw myself back out into the world, and the world replied with hospitality, humility, kindness, captivation, and all the challenges I yearned for.
So as I stand and reflect on the months gone by, I can also look towards the future, with the rejuvenated sense that my real adventure is only just beginning.
Thanks, World, I'll see you next time.
Thank you once again to those who made my trip possible:
• Smaller Earth (smallerearth.com).
• Lowe Alpine (lowealpine.com).
• Brickstore (brickstore.org.uk).
• In Touch with Bricks (itwb.co.uk).
• My two local school partners.
• Friends, family and strangers from around the world who generously supported me via my Kickstarter campaign.
• The countless humans, of all designs, who became my friends and guides across Asia, and the beating heart of my journey.