June 07, 2005

Grouse Grind, by David

On our way to the car, my friend Kendra asked "How fast can you run a 10km? Cause that's a good indicator of how long the Grind should take you."

The Grouse Grind, located on Grouse Mountain in North Vancouver, is probably Vancouver's most famous trail. It is notorious for being a steep and strenuous trail that takes you from the foot to the top of the mountain pretty much in a straight line. It is only 2.9km long, but the elevation change is a punishing 853m (2,800 feet). It was built illegally over 20 years ago by two men, Don McPherson and Phil Severy, without help or permission, and now sees more than 100,000 hikers every year.

Unfortunately the weather was poor and fog on the mountain would have prevented me from taking good pictures, so I left the camera home.

The trail starts in the parking lot underneath the Grouse Mountain gondola. The first part of the trail may not seem so bad, but the trail quickly becomes steeper. Rocks, dirt and wood are carefully placed to form steps. And the steps just keep coming. It is hard to enjoy the surroundings because you have to concentrate on where your feet land, and where to put them next. I turned around a few times, but the trees are so tall that even if there were no fog, I doubt there would be much to see from the trail. But it does make you appreciate how steep the trail is to take a peak back every once in a while.

At about the half-way marker, my legs were getting tired but I figured that if I stopped or slowed down, it would be a lot harder to pick up the pace so I kept going. As I kept climbing, it was starting to rain more, and I noticed the temperature drop because of the altitude change. You have to be a bit more careful with wet roots and steps when it rains as it can get slippery, but ropes are installed in the trickier sections to help prevent dangerous falls.

Maybe it's time to say that the Grouse Grind isn't for everyone. It is like climbing one and a half times the height of the CN Tower. I kept thinking that Mag would never enjoy this hike, and I was glad I did it without her first. Make sure you're in good shape and know what you're getting yourself into when you attempt to hike the Grind.

The trail at some point seems like it never ends since you can't see the top until you're there. When I reached the 3/4 marker, I was a bit shocked since I had been keeping track of my time and was expecting to be closer to the end. But the markers are apparently not exactly at the right spots. Since it was my first time on the trail, and I did not know exactly how much longer I had to go, I kept reminding myself that I was almost there and not to slow down. 10 minutes later large signs indicating the trailhead greeted me at the top. The fog was so thick I couldn't even see the pointy roof of the Peak Chalet that was 50 meters ahead.

I finished it in about 48-49 minutes, slightly better than my best 10km time. At the top you can hang out in the Peak Chalet and on a nice day, enjoy the view, but unfortunately there wasn't much to for us to see except fog. So we had a few drinks of water and paid the $5 for a gondola ride down the mountain back to the parking lot. The Grind is not really the kind of hike you do mostly for fun, it should be hiked more for the exercise or the challenge than anything else.

I'll do it again for sure.


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