The Grind is a 2.9km route up Grouse Mountain in North Vancouver, ascending 853m through thick forest, along a steep, narrow trail strewn with tree roots and boulders and some 2,830 steps thrown in for good measure.
To fitness-mad Vancouverites, it is known as Mother Nature’s Stairmaster. For some, it’s their average weekly workout. Everyone knows their best time and has something to say about yours.
Because I’m a bit crazy, I’d been looking forward to climbing the Grind since I heard of it months ago. Now I’ve completed it – and fully intend to return and better my time – I thought I’d offer some tips to other newbies contemplating giving the Grind a go.
Getting there – The Grind is a 30 minute drive from Downtown. We went on public transit, which took a while longer but was really cheap. Just get the Seabus from Waterfront to Lonsdale Quay, then take bus 236 to Grouse Mountain. The trail entrance is to the right of the Grouse Mountain reception building.
Opening hours – Check the Grouse Mountain website for opening times – these depend on the weather. Currently the trail opens at 0630 and closes at 1830, seven days a week. Once winter sets in, the trail is closed until deemed safe again in the warmer months.
What it costs – The Grind is a public trail and free to all. Once at the top, you will have free access to most of the Grouse Mountain resort attractions, which normally cost $39.95, including the lumberjack show! Note that hiking down the Grind is discouraged – the Skyride down costs $10.
When to go – We did the Grind around midday on a sunny holiday weekend. It was hot and we were surrounded by large numbers of tourists, which meant the going was slower than it could have been. If you want cool peace and quiet or a PB, go early in the morning on a weekday.
Who to take – Anyone who is reasonably fit should beat the Grind. We saw many people bring along young children, who looked like they were finding it very difficult. Others seemed unprepared for the exertion. Just know your own fitness level and be prepared for hard work!
What shoes to wear – Hiking shoes or boots are essential if you want help getting over those rocks, tree roots and steep steps. Trainers take a battering and flip-flops are useless. I saw a girl in beachwear turn back before she had even started.
What clothes to wear – The trail is covered by forest canopy, so sunburn isn’t a major worry. However you will get very hot from the exertion, so wear clothes that will keep you cool – I wore athletics shorts.
What to carry – You’ll get dehydrated so take water or an energy drink, and maybe a snack too. Definitely take mozzie repellent. Cameras are heavy, as my boyfriend gallantly found, carrying our bag. Always take a cellphone in case of emergency.
Trail markers – The route is marked off in quarters measuring altitude, not distance. I found the 1st and 2nd quarter signs came round quite fast but I hit ‘the wall’ after the 3rd quarter, which was the hardest. The 4th quarter was a difficult climb!
Speed – We tried not to treat it as a race, especially as there were children on the trail. But if speed is your game, be aware that the average first timer completes the Grind in 1h 30m – 2h. I’m reasonably fit and took 1h 18m. The official records stand at 25m for men and 31m for women.
When you reach the top – There is no official entrance for Grinders into the Grouse Mountain resort, so once you’ve reached the top you’re in for free. Take some time to bask in your hard work, get some well-earned nachos and lemonade and celebrate with the grizzlies!