Grind it Out: Hiking up Vancouver's Grouse Mountain
The Grouse Grind in the summer is basically the sweatiest thing you can do after a hot yoga/curry eating contest in a sauna. The lush rainforest canopy that keeps the west coast beautifully green also traps in the heat and humidity and the sheer exertion of hauling your body straight up a mountain will make the most fit of us break a solid sweat. The hike routes you up the face of Grouse Mountain, essentially taking you up stairs for an hour in a mild, natural sauna. And yet, even with all this perspiration, Grouse Mountain estimates that 150,000 people do this hike annually.
The hike itself is 2.9 km (1.8 miles) with an elevation gain of 853 metres (2,800 feet). It is a well-travelled and well-maintained trek. It's the kind of hike people do to either say that they’ve done it, or because they are fitness nuts to enjoy the pain.
The first quarter is the least steep, which is why it feels so long. Coming upon the ¼ mark is usually followed by groans of disbelief and “how can it only be a quarter, why are we doing this?” Luckily it makes the third quarter seem short by comparison, which fills the last quarter with hope.
In 2013 Outside Magazine called the Grouse Grind one of the most dangerous hikes on the planet. Which is insane when you compare it to basically every other hike in the world — the Grind is essentially a staircase. On paper the Grind seems dangerous because of a high number of emergencies that take experienced rescuers. Grouse Mountain is a bit of a tourist trap (there’s a restaurant, zipline, grizzly bear pen, and lumberjack show at the top), dozens of tour buses drop people off there each week, leading to people hiking in jeans, sandals, or even heels.
With all this aside, it is a good exercise hike. It is a unifying human experience, as we all struggle up a mountainside together. Everyone goes along at their own pace offering encouragement to those who seem to need it (which is just about everyone at some point). Even the gym jocks with the thick necks and budging muscles strain under this cardiovascular workout. The age range of people doing this trek ranges from 7 to 90 and you become a community with the people in your section going your pace. You’re all in this together, so when the nine year old girl sits down in the middle of the trail and says, “but why are we even doing this?” you know that we’re all thinking the same thing. It’s a weird pilgrimage (that kind of feels like escaping a tsunami) that ends at a resort on top of a mountain that serves cold beer and fish tacos.
When you reach the top you’re greeted by a channel of other hikers catching their breath or waiting for friends. After the sweat has dried and you’re ready to go home the gondola costs $10, so remember to pack some method of payment. You are not permitted to hike down the main trail (why would you want to?), so just pay the $10 and enjoy the view from the gondola.