Amazing Ada the adventurer…

So full of life; busy, bouncy, joyful and excited by the world around her. She loves being in the outdoors, and so that would be where you would always find her – romping through forests, mountain biking through the mud, dangling from cliff faces, paddling in canoes, or high up in the mountains. Her energy and enthusiasm knew no bounds, and she was never happier than when she was having an adventure!

This was shown in no small measure when in 2016 she won the title of ‘Junior Adventurer of the Year’, after entering a nationwide competition in which she had to write about her favourite adventure. The judges loved not only the calibre of activities she was writing about but also her passion and the way you could feel her excitement through her writing:

Dear Adventure Map

My name is Ada Marie Brien, and I am nine years old. I live in North Wales, it’s really nice here because there’s always an adventure just around the corner.

An adventure is a really fun experience, and always something new. It’s sometimes a little bit scary, but really exciting. I’m always learning something new. An adventure pushes your limits and changes your life.

Adventuring is my favourite thing to do because it’s a wonderful experience. It makes me feel happy, excited and proud of myself. After an adventure I feel much more confident, and much stronger than before. Whenever I finish an adventure, I am always ready for a new one. Sometimes adventures come sooner than you think, and sometimes much later than you want them to.

I have been on loads of adventures in North Wales; I have climbed Mount Snowdon, I’ve canoed across the Menai Strait in home-made canoes strapped together with plastic poles, been seal spotting, and even used flooded mountain paths as water slides. I’m going to tell you about my favourite adventure: Snakes and Ladders at Dinorwic Slate Quarries.

To get into the quarries, we had to abseil down a huge cliff. We were all in climbing harnesses and had helmets on. We were tied into an old rusty pole and we had to lean back over a huge cliff to abseil off. Mummy was too scared to go first, and my brothers were too nervous to do it at all, so I went first. I abseiled straight away, jumping straight off and down, only stopping to have my photo taken!

At the bottom, we tied ourselves into a rope to make sure that we didn’t get lost and that we didn’t fall down the huge drops. We walked around a big crater with slate piles everywhere, and then went into a really dark mine tunnel. When we emerged, it was really bright. We were at the edge of a big pit with a waterfall and a whole load of really pretty flowers and moss. We could barely see the top and we could see no bottom to the deep pit. We had to tie in to boulders using slings and ropes so that we couldn’t fall into the deep pit, because the path was really narrow and slippery.

When we came to the end of the path, there was another big tunnel. We went through it carefully because it had a big stream running through it and it was darker than the first. At the other end there were a whole load of boulders and piles of slate. We sat on the top of a pile of boulders to have our lunch and prepare for the next climb.

We had to climb up the side of the quarry, which had a big rusty metal chain, to get to the next mine tunnel. Glyn (my stepdad) went first to tie in and belayed us from the top. I went first again. It was really tricky at first because there wasn’t much to hold onto, and because it was so wet and mucky, I couldn’t wear my climbing shoes, so it was really slippery. A few metres from the top, there were a couple of ledges one or two inches wide, and then it started to get a lot easier as there were bigger foot holds as well. Once I had reached the top, I was grateful it was over, because it had been a long, tricky climb. My brother James came up next, with a lot of help, and then my little brother Eric. Eric was hauled up and looked like he was a slug climbing up on his belly! We told him he had a superpower: Slug Power!!

When we were all at the top, we went through another mine to a tree at the other end, and we had to tie into the tree to abseil down again to find another path.

We walked up the path with piles of waste slate until we found a small hole at the bottom of a cliff. There were a whole load of rocks blocking the way, so there was only a small gap to squeeze through. We had to take our bags off and shove them in the hole first before we could climb through. We had to make sure the bags were closed.

In the hole it was very dark and the mine was very big. There were quite a few puddles and there was an old rusty mine cart which had lost a wheel. We had to use Glyn’s head torch to light the way. Eventually, we got to the end and there was a gigantic slag pile. It looked as tall as a sky scraper, and we had to scramble up it. I was in the lead. It was really difficult because we kept sliding back down. After some time, we made it onto a wide path and were able to walk the whole way around the slate quarry to get back to the car.

This is my favourite adventure so far because it was really difficult and because it was a life changing experience. I hadn’t done a climb as difficult as the one by the rusty chain at that point, and it made me feel more confident in my climbing and really happy with myself for having done it.

I would really like it if you chose me to be your adventurer, because adventuring is what I do. It’s my ultimate daily goal, every day!! I am a really good adventurer, because I take every second of it into my memory. Sometimes I am quite scared, but a bit of an adventure has to be scary for it to be fun. I don’t let it stop me, and when I look back, I think “wow! I really did well!”

(Ada, aged 9).

All of a sudden, Ada was on the BBC and ITV news, spending time in front of cameras and arranging meetings with breakfast TV presenters. She had won tickets for herself, friends and family to all of the top adventure attractions in North Wales and had even been offered a scholarship at St David’s College for sporting excellence. In return, she was asked to blog about each of the adventure attractions she was visiting:

She wasn’t just an outdoorsy child through, she also loved arts and crafts, and was always very conscientious and thoughtful of others. She would give her birthday presents away to make others happy and would share anything she had. She liked to help other children. Last year she took it upon herself to write to the PTA of her school and request a stall at the school Christmas fair so that she could raise money for Alder Hey Childrens’ Hospital. She made things to sell and raised over £100 and all of her own accord.

Ada was just ALWAYS busy! Always doing something, always looking forward to the next adventure. She never stopped!!….

Well… until she did.

All of a sudden on Easter Monday 2017, Ada was sore. It was a beautiful day, and so we had decided to take the dogs for a walk on Anglesey, but Ada hurt. Her legs were so sore and she was hobbling. She said it felt as though she had dislocated her hips and both her ankles. Within a couple of days, Ada could no longer walk because of the level of pain in her legs, and she started getting blinding headaches that reduced her to tears and severe photophobia. Everything hurt and she was too weak to sit up unless she was supported. She couldn’t go to the toilet by herself or get into the bath, and was in such severe pain that she was admitted to hospital three times over the coming weeks as the paediatricians tried to find out what was wrong with her.

Ada had blood tests, ECGs, MRIs and innumerable investigations and examinations to test her muscle strength and central nervous system. Everything came back normal, but her symptoms remained. Over the following few months, every other condition was gradually ruled out, until we were left with a diagnosis of ME – Myalgic Encephalomyelitis.

M.E. is a long-term condition that causes people to experience severe, persistent fatigue associated with the body’s inability to recover after expending even small amounts of energy.

The diagnosis has been gutting for Ada. When we asked her to write a bit about herself for this website, she wrote:

“My name is Ada Brien. I was crowned junior adventurer of the year and was planning more adventures but when I woke up one morning at Easter my whole body was aching and it has been like that ever since. I feel like part of my life has been taken away”.

(Ada, aged 11).

So very different from her Adventurer of the Year application!!

As you can see, getting back into the wild is so very important for Ada’s mental health, and this mountain wheelchair is going to make one very special adventurer feel like she has her life back.

She is still, and always will be, our Amazing Ada the Adventurer.