These were the thoughts going through my mind on a loop last Saturday morning while I sweated my way to the top of Grouse Mountain. Grouse Grind is a 2.9 km hike on the North Shore of Vancouver, which has a 853 m elevation gain. And that’s where the difficulty lies. The Grind is an incredibly popular hike and is seen as a physical challenge of strength and endurance. The first quarter lulls you into a false sense of security. But as you progress, the trail gets steeper and steeper. The quarter, half and three-quarter way points of the trail are sign-posted. A good excuse to take a quick break to refuel and catch your breath. I felt rejuvenated after each break… for all of five seconds. Not long after I passed the half-way marker, I overheard a guy state that the last quarter of the hike was the worst. That wasn’t exactly music to my ears. But despite the last quarter being quite the uphill challenge, it didn’t seem as long as the rest.
It’s an epic feeling when you reach the top. I accidentally slept in Saturday morning so I did the hike by myself and met my friends at the top (thanks for waiting!). After finishing a cold drink, we went to explore and stumbled across a lumberjack show up there. These occur three times daily and run from May to October. The wood-cutting and tree-climbing skills where quite impressive. We also ventured over to the bear enclosure to catch a look at Cool and Grinder, two orphaned grizzlies that were found back in 2001. Fortunately, the journey back down Grouse Mountain is much easier on the legs – the Skyride gondola departs every fifteen minutes and the ticket down costs $16.
Despite the pessimistic opening lines to this blog post, I’m happy I did it. Not just for the sake of crossing it off the Vancouver list. It was a good challenge and resulting achievement. And surprisingly I didn’t have any aching muscles in the days that followed. If you need a point of reference for the Grind, it took me one hour and fifty minutes to complete the hike. Clearly my fitness is not at peak levels. I’ve heard of people doing it in one hour. Definitely go prepared. Don’t be like that guy I seen wearing chinos and dress shoes.
One last piece of advice?
Don’t look up. Or down.