In my opinion, no visit to Vancouver is complete without a trip to Grouse Mountain. It’s one of the things that makes the city so appealing, not only do you have the hustle and bustle of a culturally diverse metropolis, but you also have the natural beauty of the mountains all within 20 minutes of downtown. Standing at 1231 meters tall, Grouse mountain is open all year round and is easily accessible by local transit routes. It provides gruelling hiking trails in the summer, great skiing in the winter (according to friends!) and stunning views of Vancouver 365 days a year.
We visited in September last year so took the opportunity to visit this amazing complex. You have two options to get to the top of the mountain: you can catch a ride in the gondola or you can hike up. A round trip on the gondola is around $45 for adults (at time of visiting, check out pricing here). However, if you hike up you can ride the gondola down for just $20. Being the penny-pinchers we are and lovers of hiking we opted for the latter.
Easy-peasy we thought, we’re young and fit. But 5 minutes in we started to understand why the locals call it the Grouse Grind! Have you ever walked up stairs continually for over an hour? That is what the Grind is like, there are few places on the trail where you can catch your breath. However, we’d started ascending and due to the steep nature of the trail, once you’ve started you cannot turn back. In fact, it was one of the quietist hikes despite the amount of traffic walking along, as everyone was concentrating on breathing. The three French boys who started the trail rather enthusiastically with music blaring and chatting were reduced to a few words every now and again to check everyone was still alive!
The September weather was still proving to be rather warm but knowing that peaks of mountains are often chilly, I set off with a couple of layers and a scarf. These were soon ditched and placed in the backpack I quickly passed off to Matt to endure. Whilst I was grateful for the water and snacks in the bag, we both regretted taking it all. Matt, being much fitter than myself, was often much further ahead of me and had to wait every ten minutes for me to catch up and have some water together. In the periods I was by myself, huffing, puffing, red faced and looking like I’d stupidly set off without any water, several other hikers checked I was ok and properly hydrated. The trail had the friendly community spirit we’ve come to love about Canada.
Along the route there are numbered markers to let you know how you are progressing. This was, for me, mentally reassuring. I knew I was making progress and that each step was taking me nearer to the end goal. It enabled you to not only set a pace and target for each section of the trail but also provide yourself with rewards once you reached each milestone marker.
There are a variety of hikers on this trail despite its difficulty. There was everyone from families to serious trail runners. Yes… RUNNERS! We learnt that you can buy a special pass that enables you to record your time, by tapping in at the bottom and out at the top. The amount of times you tackle the Grind and the time you do it in are then submitted to the league boards. Many locals train throughout the year for the annual Grouse Grind Run, which have produced some crazy times. For example, in 2010 it was completed in 23:48 and some people had done the trail over 40 times in the year.
When Matt and I reached the summit, we were amazed that anyone would want to do it more than once. But as soon as the sense of achievement set in and the happy endorphins started flowing we knew we wanted to attempt to beat our times. I couldn’t believe I’d become competitive with a mountain!
But before we could begin to plan our next attempt we had time to enjoy the attractions at the peak. Whether you ride the gondola or endure the Grind you are rewarded with several wonders. First things first, for us was food. Treating ourselves to some well-earned poutine in the café we sat and enjoyed the views as our t-shirts started to freeze to our backs (the scarf wasn’t looking so silly now!) Other than enjoying the amazing scenery there is also a lumber jack show and zip-line experience. However, for me, the most amazing sight was the two rescued grizzly bears, Grinder and Coola. These beautiful creatures would have died in the wild as they’d both lost their mothers, instead they have become brothers and thrive at the top of Grouse. In their large enclosure they have ample space to do all their favourite bear activities, such as eating and sleeping. The super friendly Rangers are around the enclosure to talk and answer any questions you may have about the grizzlies who are more than happy to pose for a photo or two!
We’d enjoyed our time so much, we decided to take my parents when they came to visit a few weeks later. However, this time we were more prepared, my parents went up in the gondola with a spare change of clothes, deodorant and my camera. This time was serious, there would be no stopping to take photos, to waiting for each other. Matt had set himself the challenge of completing it in under an hour. It was each man for themselves! Armed with iced water and no extra layers, off we went. Whilst I couldn’t keep up with Matt I was amazed at my own determination. It was a thrill to be beating my last pace. The markers were proving to be very helpful. Towards the end I even had a skip in my step!
Once again, the endorphins flowed as we both beat our previous attempts. An obligatory victory poutine was in order! It was my Mum’s birthday and she had a wonderful time watching the lumberjack show and seeing the glorious bears. After enjoying everything the mountain has to offer you get to ride back down in the gondola and take in the stunning scenery.
|Matt First attempt:||1:35:23||Katie First attempt:||1:35:33|
|Matt Second attempt:||55:03||Katie Second attempt:||1:24:30|
Matt had managed to get under an hour and I’d managed to shave off ten minutes. Ten minutes may not seem like a great deal but I was happy to have beaten my first time. Even through the Grind is gruelling it is an amazing achievement and one I would recommend to anyone.
Have you ever done the Grind? What was your time? Would you do it again?
Thanks once again for joining me on A- Z Travels. This week has been tough as the G key is missing off my keyboard so here’s been a lot of correcting! Next week will be H for Housesitting! Happy Travels 😊