In North Vancouver, there’s a famous hike on Grouse Mountain called the aforementioned ‘Grouse Grind’. It’s also nicknamed ‘Mother Nature’s Stairmaster’, and with 2,830 stairs gaining an elevation of 853 metres, you can see why. For any of you that know my blog well, you’ll know I actually did this hike when I was in Canada. So I thought I’d write a post for any would be first-time ‘grinders’ (I’m not being dirty, that’s actually the nickname for people who do the hike), to let you know what it’s like to do this hike as a relatively out of shape newbie.
So firstly here’s some facts taken directly from the hike website for the trail:
– Length: 2.9 kilometres (1.8 miles)
– Elevation Gain: 853 metres (2,800 feet) – For perspective, this is higher than the tallest building in the world, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa
– Total Stairs: 2,830
– Time to Complete: On average it takes up to an hour and a half to complete the hike. For novice hikers, two hours is recommended.
Note the hike is usually only open Spring to Fall because of adverse weather making it dangerous
I found the start of the trail as it’s marked by a very encouraging, ‘it’s not our fault if you die’ sign (above)… But shortly after is a cute ‘legs you’ve got this sign’ so you quickly forget about any impending doom… At the start, I really didn’t see what the fuss was about (see the naive smiling chap in the left hand picture below). You walk along the trail with a few steps here and there and it’s a bit of a breeze. I got passed by some absolute pro/crazy fit person who was running the trail (being passed by people quicker than me became more and more frequent as time went on…), but other than that I felt great about my progress.
After walking for what seems like forever and realising why the hike got it’s ‘grind’ nickname, you’ll see a lovely progress sign reading 1/40. Wait a second, I’m only 1/40th of the way there? That can’t be right… Unfortunately it is, but these signs become a nice way of tracking your progress. You’ll see by the above flattering pictures of me you’ll suddenly get tired very quickly. Those ‘slight inclines’ turn rapidly into steps, endless steps. 2830 steps in total. This number may seem hard to put in perspective, but if you have 10 steps in your house for example (although yes they won’t be as high), this is probably similar to walking up those over 200 times! During the hike, you won’t actually see a lot. Lots of views like the below (apologies for the blurry photo, I was in a state of slight tiredness) of upwards stairs getting less and less uniform, and trees…
The hike take you up through dense trees the whole time, and the view is often ascending path going upwards and snaking around. The path goes on, and on, and on, with lots of steps, and your pace will likely be slowing as mine did. As an American gentleman who was one of the few people I actually passed, and who looked like he was about to have a heart attack, put it, ‘tomorrow is definitely gonna be a day of rest!’. I hear you. Throughout the route I needed to stop quite a few times, which is likely why I didn’t do the hike quicker than I did, but in summary, it is definitely hard work!
It’s not all doom and gloom though… You’ll reach the end eventually after climbing all those uneven steps, and emerge out to see some breathtaking views. It’s such an amazing feeling to come out at the top having not seen how high you are at all so far, to look out to Vancouver and the ocean. Not to mention there is a cafe, a bear enclosure with two rescued grizzlies (see below they’re called Coola and Grinder), and lumberjack shows, so you’re also rewarded with cool stuff to do up there as well. Once you’re at the top, you’ll need to get the gondola back down which isn’t too expensive (you’re not allowed to hike down the trail due to steepness), and then if you haven’t had enough hiking you can go back and do it all over again if you so wish. I didn’t so wish.
For those adventurous hikers out there, or people who just want a challenge, I would definitely recommend this hike. It isn’t for the faint hearted, but it’s got a sort of pride amongst people in Vancouver who will likely be very impressed if you’ve been brave enough to do it. The route isn’t the most scenic, as it’s essentially all in dense woodland, but when you emerge out at the top, the feeling is incredible. For those who like to be competitive, they even have ways to time your progress from the bottom to the top, so you can see how quick you are compared to everyone else. It’s a challenging but rewarding hike that comes with a badge of honour, so if you’re feeling like working off those Timmy’s donuts, this is for you.
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