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BY THE NUMBERS: Distance: 2.9 kilometres Elevation gain: 853 metres Total stairs: 2,830 Average time to complete: 1.5 to 2 hours Calories burned: 750 to 1,000 Male record: 25:01 Female record: 31:04 Visitors: About 100,000 people a year/season do the Grouse Grind
FOR BEGINNERS: Don’t focus on time: “Just finish, try to enjoy the experience, says Vancouver kinesiologist Rob Williams. When you’re halfway up the trail you should remind yourself you’re going to feel like a million bucks when you’re finished, says Williams. “[You’re] going to get to that first quarter marker and go, ‘Holy, this is not what I was expecting,’ I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone for who it wasn’t worse than what they were expecting.” On the bright side, that first quarter marker is actually more than one-quarter of the way along the trail. It is a measure of elevation, not distance, and because the trail's first quarter is not as steep as the rest, that first marker takes a long time to reach. Subsequent quarters are steeper, but shorter. For a more precise gauge of how far along you are, watch for the 40 numbered tags on trees at the side of the trail. “I do know people who’ve gone [and] their first time is so horrible they just won’t go back,” said Williams.
GENERAL ADVICE: Wear proper gear: breathable trail runners or regular runners. No jeans or leather shoes. Walking in a zig-zag pattern and avoiding stairs where you can will help you conserve energy. Stay right when being passed; let others know when you're passing on the left. Wear bug spray on hot days. Bees can be attracted to sweat. Don't climb the trail at, or near, night. Stay on the trail at all times. Clap and make noise if you see a bear near the trail. Stay hydrated: Drink a litre of water before hiking and another litre while on the trail. Hydrate immediately afterward.
FOR REGULARS: A $109 season pass gets you unlimited access on the tram and includes a “bag transfer,” so you can climb hands-free and have your bag meet you at the top. You can also purchase a Grind Timer card for an annual fee of $20 to record your times and make your way into computerized stats and all-time lists.
WHEN TO GO: Grind hours: 6:15 a.m. to 7 p.m. Skyride tram hours (round trips): 8:45a.m. to 10:00 p.m. (The blue tram runs earlier in the summer for Grouse Grinders, with the first downhill ride at 7:30 a.m.) Avoid peak times, which are evenings (after-work crowd), weekends and long weekends. Descending the Grouse Grind is prohibited. You should not go back down the trail. Find another way off the mountain. According to North Shore Search and Rescue, the descent is more dangerous as the steep trek down creates more hazards where you smash into people coming up, or trip and fall.
DATING ON THE GRIND: According to North Shore Search and Rescue, a common rescue call for the Grouse Grind is from the boyfriend-girlfriend scenario: They head to the mountain together, but the boyfriend races to the top, and the girlfriend, ill prepared for such a hike, often collapses. Oddly enough, Grouse Mountain public relations says the Grouse Grind serves as a first date for many people.
CELEBRITY SIGHTINGS: Matt Damon (he tweeted about it). Michael Bublé has talked about it being one of his favourite things to do in Vancouver. Canucks Henrik and Daniel Sedin are spotted regularly. “It’s a real common daily workout, or close to, for lots of Whitecaps and Canucks,” according to Grouse Mountain spokeswoman Darlene Small.
SPECIAL EVENTS: June: Seak the Peak — A race supporting the B.C. Cancer Foundation. Whistler Water One Climb — A climb to the top raising money for Free the Children. September: Grouse Grind Mountain Run — Official race for Grouse Grind record setting. All season: Grind for Kids — Gain pledges for the number of grinds over a whole season for B.C. Children’s Hospital Foundation. Wednesdays, May-September: Mingler Wednesdays — A social night sponsored by Granville Island Brewing at the Altitudes Bistro at the top of the mountain.
HISTORY: 1894: The first hikers are recorded on Grouse Mountain — a hunting party who shot a blue grouse and named the mountain in its honour. 1920s: The first big waves of adventurous hikers flock to the mountain to reach the cabins in the Grouse Mountain village at the foot of what is known today as The Cut ski run. 1981: Mountaineers Don McPherson and Phil Severy take it upon themselves to develop the Grouse Grind trail, to the dismay of the Greater Vancouver Regional District, which owns the land. The pair hack their way through the steep route by following animal paths. 1983: McPherson and Severy complete the trail. 1990: The trail is dubbed the Grouse Grind and becomes the place to be for fit socialites. 1996: The original trail builders, the B.C. Federation of Mountaineering Club and Grouse Mountain rebuild the trail for safety and protection from erosion. 2006: The Grouse Grind is officially registered as a trademark by Grouse Mountain.
The official Grind Timer marks the start of the trail.
Amy often gets a 20-minute head start from her super-fit friend, who always catches up to her in the same spot. vimeo.com
It's early on the trail, but if you're not fit enough for the hike, this is likely where you'll realize it. Amy saw a man die there in 2010. They call it the "cardiac arrest stop." vimeo.com
Amy shows us where her favourite shortcut used to be. vimeo.com
It's been called "the biggest downer in the history of hiking." The official 1/4 mark (elevation) is much more than one-quarter of the way along the trail and is preceded by a particularly grinding stretch. vimeo.com
One of the more challenging portions of the trail can be slippery when wet. vimeo.com
A special stump sticks out just below a giant step, which you can use to help yourself up. vimeo.com
The light at the end of the tunnel, just a few metres from the top of the trail. vimeo.com
The only downhill stretch of trail, and it's a short one. Break into a run to improve your time!
The little-known Flint and Feather Trail is accessed via a turnoff just before the bridge. vimeo.com
The trail eases off briefly during the third quarter, posing a question: Do you catch your breath, or pick up the pace? vimeo.com