VANCOUVER - Doing the Grouse Grind, a 2.8-kilometre climb up Grouse Mountain, is like a rite of passage. It says you’re tough enough to tackle one of the most challenging fitness feats in a city that lives and breathes fitness.
And no matter how fit you are (or think you are), the Grouse Grind, which includes 2,830 wooden steps, will kick your butt.
Call it the meanest Stairmaster you’ve ever encountered.
On this trail, which climbs more than 850 metres, Mother Nature will make sure you know who’s boss.
I arrive early on a Saturday morning to hit the trail, which was developed in 1981 and is open from spring to fall, but the crowds have already gathered.
“No personal record today,” says one local Grinder, who looks like he does the trail regularly.
Many locals try to score a faster climb each time. Most have bought “Grind Timer Cards” to record their time.
Visitors can buy them too, and try to best the local records which currently stand at 23.48 minutes for men and 31.04 minutes for women.
I have no idea how long it will take me to get to the top, but off I go, following in the footsteps of the 100,000 people who tackle this climb annually. What surprises me is the diverse fitness levels among Grinders. Some look uber-fit, but most are weekend warriors at best. (By the way, there’s a companion trail called the BCMC which is supposedly more “organic” in nature).
People are in good spirits for about the first 10 minutes of the trail. Then conversation fades, unless you count the cursing. Soon, I hear nothing but huffing and puffing.
Above: The ride to Grouse Mountain offers some spectacular views.
The trail, which involves those steps and large rocks that are best suited to long legs, gets narrow at times, which is why you’re supposed to walk in single file and announce when you’re passing people. You don’t have to worry about people going the other way; owing to the steep pitch, descending is prohibited.
I move at a steady clip, past signs that announce the quarter, half, and three-quarter marks. The closer I get to the top, the more excited I am.
Finally, the end is in sight. I didn’t buy a timer, but I still touch the official end marker and according to my watch, my time is 55 minutes. Not bad for a first try. Next time, I know I’ll do it faster.
The laws of physics dictate that what goes up must come down, and I do, but on Grouse Mountain’s tram. There are at least 30 Grinders, and the smell of sweat is strong. But we’re all smiling, and even though I cursed the trail at times, I can see why people want to do it again.
It’s all about showing Mother Nature who’s boss.
Where To Eat: If you’re a foodie, you’ve chosen the right destination, as Vancouver boasts a vibrant dining scene. Hit JapaDog, Vancouver’s most famous street vendor who serves gourmet hot dogs, even vegetarian options, at its many locations. For the best tacos, visit La Taqueria. It’s a local favourite so expect a wait to get into this funky little joint. Before heading out for dinner, stop in at the Hawksworth Cocktail Bar for creative cocktails; the small plate appetizers are worth sharing. Then check out Homer St. Café & Bar, a recently opened restaurant with a hip vibe (try the chocolate pudding). / Where To Play: Wander colourful Granville Island where you’ll find restaurants, a brewery, shops and a huge market with vendors offering free samples (do purchase, though, an artisan pastry from A Bread Affair). Get more fresh air at Stanley Park, one of the city’s main hotspots where you can explore trails, head to a beach or see the famous totem-pole display. Sign up for the Grand Tour through Cycle City Tours, a five-hour tour of the city with a lunch stop at Granville Island. / Where to Stay: Check into the Loden Hotel, a pet-friendly boutique property that offers complimentary bikes and a Lumberjack package (the hotel plants a tree with each package purchased) complete with a themed room; maple syrup welcome amenity; Grouse Mountain tickets, including the lumberjack show. Other crowd pleasers include the Fairmont Waterfront, Fairmont Pacific Rim, and OPUS Vancouver.