Tag Archive | Grouse Grind

The Grouse Grind: Climbing Mother Nature’s Stairmaster

Now that the sun has finally hit the West Coast of British Columbia I’ve been making more of an effort to do all the things I read about in the guidebooks. Swimming at Kitsilano Outdoor Pool, jogging round the seawall and drinks at Granville Island have all been great fun to tick off the list, however my latest adventure was a little less relaxing. The Grouse Grind is a 2.9 kilometre hike up the side of Grouse Mountain in North Vancouver, is open from May to November, and is the alternative to taking the four minute gondola ride up from the mountain base. ‘Up’ being the operative word. The trail consists solely of steps and rocks, and is a relentless climb with an elevation of 2,800 feet. Despite this, Grouse Mountain estimate that over 100,000 people a year complete the hike. The average time to get to the top is up to 90 minutes, though the current course record is 25:01. No pressure then.

Let's start at the very beginning. A very good place to start. Or not.

As well as being one of those things you just have to do whilst in Vancouver, the Grouse Grind is a fantastic workout. With over 2,830 steps, they don’t call it ‘Mother Nature’s Stairmaster’ for nothing. This is why I decided to tackle the Grind for the first time this week whilst on a visit to the mountain with my brother and his girlfriend. I set them up with their lift tickets, handed them my backpack with a change of clothes, pointed them in the direction of the gondola, and off I went to the entrance. I’d been building up to this day for a while and was surprisingly nervous. The fact that the Grind had been closed for some hours that morning due to a medical emergency didn’t help. I had that feeling in the pit of my stomach as if I was about to walk in front of a million people and make an important speech. In French. Naked. Nevertheless, I took a deep breath and set off.

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No one knows you’re up there…

In my last post I mentioned that telling other people about my Canadian adventure was making it seem all too real, however nothing could prepare me for the trauma that was to take grip after watching Adam Green’s Frozen (2010)[1] on DVD last week.  Without giving anything away for those of you who haven’t seen it, Frozen tells the tragic tale of three skier/snowboarders who find themselves stuck on a ski lift after the slope has been closed down for the week.  If you don’t want to know what happens when someone jumps off a ski lift, don’t watch this film (or look at the back of the DVD case).  It’s not pretty.

Funnily enough, despite moving to Canada it wasn’t the thought of actually being stuck on a ski lift that terrified the living daylights out of me (I’m planning on going snowboarding a few times but I’m not doing a full on ski season), more the knowledge that if I was to find myself in a sticky situation, my family would be a 10 hour flight away.  I will of course be in the more than capable hands of my horror film obsessed boyfriend (who knows all the rules and would make sure I won my fight for survival as the final girl), but the thought of being in a different country to my family just makes breaking a limb, getting burgled or catching some sort of airborne illness seem all the more terrifying.  Of course, these are minor ailments compared to being stuck on a ski lift for 5 days and nights (depending on the airborne illness), but still.

Frozen (2010): How not to end a Sunday on the slopes

Realistically I am fully aware that Vancouver is really not that far, and a 10 hour flight is nothing compared to the likes of Australia or New Zealand.  On a bad day it can take me 5 hours to drive to my parents’ house from home, and the fastest I could get to Edinburgh on a coach is 11hrs 50 minutes.  Unfortunately such logic and rational thinking does not always prevail at 4am in the dark when one is convinced they can hear wolves in the kitchen.

After thinking for far too long about endless ‘what could go wrong’ scenarios, I have come to the conclusion that the answer is: anything.  Indeed, anything could go wrong in Vancouver, but it could also go wrong in Southampton (my house). Or Ipswich (my parents’ house).  Or anywhere else in the UK at any time whilst I’m getting on with my everyday life.  And if I was on a bus in Edinburgh when the unthinkable happened, it would take me even longer to get home than from Vancouver.  Worrying about what could happen abroad is silly, unnecessary and counterproductive, and I hereby resign to move on from this phase of the emigration thought process.

Saying that, maybe I’ll walk the Grouse Grind[2] up to the top of the mountain instead of taking the chair lift when I first go snowboarding, just in case. No point tempting fate is there?


[1] Frozen is out on DVD in the UK now: www.frozen-film.com

[2] The Grouse Grind is a 2.9km trail up the face of Grouse Mountain: http://www.grousemountain.com/Winter/vancouver-bc-hiking-trails-trips/