Beginner’s Guide to the Grouse Grind
Every year I say “never again.” And yet every year I find myself dusting the mothballs off my little backpack and lacing up my hiking boots, in preparation for a challenge worthy of Sisyphus.
Remember him? He’s the Greek guy who pushed the stone up the hill. Here, you are the stone and the “hill” is the Grouse Grind.
For the blissfully unaware, the Grind a 2.9 kilometre “hike” with some 2830 steps and an elevation gain of 853 meters, straight up Grouse Mountain in North Vancouver. And by “hike” I mean hell.
Why do it? Because it’s there. No, not really! Because I want to burn off last night’s pizza and chardonnay, why else???
For those of you who haven’t tried it, a few pointers. For the rest, some reminders.
Whatever you do beforehand, don’t over pluck or shave your eyebrows. You’re going to need them to keep the sweat from blinding you and causing you to fall off a cliff. This is not rhetoric. I mean a literal cliff.
Wear proper footwear. It’s not an urban legend, tourists do try to go up in flip flops. Running shoes or light hikers please. I prefer the latter for their grip.
Bring a bottle of water. I also like to bring some nuts or something to nosh on in case I get stuck in the woods for over an hour.
Bring $10 and ID. The $10 is for your ticket down and the ID is for… um… just in case.*
Consider bringing music. It’s an excellent way to drown out the voices in your head that are screaming “what the f*$k”
Think turtle, slow and steady. You’re not going to win this race, the goal is to finish. Small steady steps will make the journey easier than larger ones.
Pace yourself. The first ¼ is hard. Once you reach the ½ way mark, it becomes even more challenging, because you realize that the top and bottom are equidistant. Basically, you’re hooped. At ¾ you may be tempted to pick up speed as the end is near. Don’t. It’s only going to get worse.
Walk on the right and pass on the left. Do I even need to explain this? Apparently I do, girl in hot pink shorts!
If someone is nipping at your heels, let them pass. And relish the opportunity to laugh at them when you pass them later on.
Some people just want stick behind you to cut down the wind resistance. Take pity and let them.
Don’t look up. This will only make you want to 1) cry or 2) kill the people who are ahead of you and therefore that much closer to salvation. (Again, not rhetoric.)
Immediately check your phone/watch. This is key. If you don’t time yourself and brag about it to your friends, it basically never happened.
Head to the bathroom as quickly as your wobbly legs will allow. Wash your face, comb your hair and apply some lipgloss. (Ladies only please.) In case you missed the young guns passing you on the way up due to your over-plucked eyebrows, this is where the fit-sters hang out.
Cut 15 minutes off your time. If people are determined to question you about your time, they deserve the fairy tale.
A note in favour of slowpokes. Which is better exercise – walking for 5 minutes or for 30 minutes? I rest my case.
One final tip. If you want to hike but hope to avoid the crowds, take the BCMC trail instead. A bit longer, slightly “easier” and you end up in the same place. It veers off the Baden Powell.
*All joking aside, people have died on the Grind. (Heart attacks and due to adverse weather conditions.) Search and Rescue responds to about 80 calls on the trail every year. So do take some of my prep seriously.