A few days into my Vancouver adventure, I was invited out for a hike up the side a mountain. I have no idea what I was thinking, but I figured “Sure, why not?”
This is the view that greeted me that chilly morning. Boy did I have my work cut out for me.
To make things worse, I would be lugging around an extra 30lbs of camera gear on my back. Not exactly the smartest thing to do when trekking up the side of a mountain.
This sure made me feel better. No matter…
…we slowly made our way up. Or rather, I slowly made my way up.
By the way, when I say climbing up the side of a mountain, I really do mean climbing up the side of a mountain.
The trail climbs a distance of approximately 2,800 feet over a distance of 2.9KM’s. The average time for the trail is about one and a half hours, with the record being at an incredible 23 minute and 48 seconds!
The Vancouver area is also very humid, being next to the ocean and all, but the Grouse Grind starts at such a high elevation (900 feet above sea level) that the air is much noticeably thinner.
As you can see, the trail is a mixture of wooden stairs, rocks, gravel, tree roots, just about anything! This made for quite a difficult time making my way up.
Apparently the Vancouver Canucks use this trail for training as well, with the entire team making up to the top in about 30 minutes!
As much as I love nature, this was something else. My legs were dead after just a short while and I had no idea how much further I had to go.
It was be in my best interest to get a move on however, as the sun still hasn’t fully risen yet which meant that temperatures were slowly on the rise.
I took many stops on the way up, so many in fact that I got to meet a lot of different and very nice people, all of which had very interesting stories to tell!
Unfortunately though I couldn’t stick around for story time for too long, but at the same time I was honestly in no rush to get moving as my legs felt like they were on fire.
Looking down every now and then really made me realize how high up we were…
…but looking forwards, it seemed like this was never going to end.
Needless to say, it was too late to turn back. Not only that, the trail rules clearly state that downhill travel is prohibited anyways…
While I was on the same trail the entire time, it was really neat to see the change in environment around me as the trail never looked completely the same at any one point.
There were even some parts where it was surprisingly close to the edge, most of which have ropes along the side for safety.
It was also interesting how at one point I would feel like I was the only person out here, and another I felt like I was crossing the street in the Mong Kok district in Hong Kong. Every now and then just a sea of people would seemingly appear out of nowhere and just pass right by me!
Like I said earlier, some parts of the trail were pretty straightforward…
…while others were quite a bit more challenging.
There’s even a disclaimer on their website that the trail is very challenging and not recommended for “average” hikers.
Finally made it halfway. I forgot to take a picture of the quarter mark (pictures were honestly the last thing on my mind), but it took me about an hour and fifteen minutes just to get to the quarter mark. I felt dead.
Oh well, nothing more I could do but continue onwards.
So onwards I went, ever so slowly.
By now I was making my way up all by myself as my group had slowly separately. Shortly after I passed the quarter mark though I received a call; some of my friends were already at the top!
After a few words of encouragement (not to mention some huge gulps of water), I was on the move again.
Besides taking multiple stops to rest, I also didn’t mind stopping here and there at all as the scenery surrounding me was honestly very beautiful.
So beautiful in fact that I somehow managed to break my lens hood on the way up. Sigh.
Still, that was better than dropping something down the side of the mountain where it would be lost forever (I’ve accidently knocked a friends lens cap clean off the front of his lens before and watched it fly down the side of a cliff once. Needless to say we were not about to go get it).
After taking a small break to make sure that my camera and lens were still working fine, I continued on once again.
While a lot of people going up the Grind were carrying a light backpack of some sort that would be filled with supplies (water, snacks, Band-Aids, etc.), there were quite a few people who preferred to not weigh themselves down and just brought a single water bottle and that was it!
There was no way that I would’ve been able to make it all the way to the top with just a single water bottle though. Nope, not happening.
As it turns out, I wasn’t the only one. During a quick break around the ¾ mark, I donated one of my water bottles to a gentleman that I noticed was carrying an empty water bottle in his hands. Boy was he glad to accept.
I was also extremely glad to see the ¾ mark. Only a little further to go!
Or so I thought. What the heck is this?!
After being successfully trolled, I learned that each quarter actually gets shorter as you make your way up. Still, I no longer knew if I was really at the ¾ mark or not.
In the end that wouldn’t matter though, as I only had one direction to go!
The camera gear that I was carrying with me was really taking its toll on me. It wasn’t my shoulders that hurt from backpack, but rather it was all in my legs.
With every step upwards I took, I had to lift that much more with each leg, and it was really killing me.
While I’m completely used to carrying large amounts of gear with me for extended periods of time, this was something else.
I found myself taking breaks more frequently as I got closer to the top. Because of that, I was also running out of water.
It also didn’t help (in a way) that at one point I poured water all down my back. As refreshing as it felt, I also really needed that water in order to stay hydrated until I at least got to the top – something that without a doubt is very important for obvious health reasons.
Eventually the trail got damp, with the gravel turning into mud and the rocks becoming dangerously slippery.
With this change in the trail, I knew that the goal was near. I could feel it; victory was in reach!
I had finally made it to the top; boy was I relieved.
My time? A whole 2:57:03.4. While I gave up on getting to the top in a reasonable time very early on, I was still pretty happy to make it in just under three hours.
I recall my exact words upon reaching the top were “I never want to see another set of stairs again”.
This was the view that greeted me to get up into the lounge. Sigh!
After a quick cleaning of my Chucks…
…I was just about ready to collapse in my seat. Once inside the facilities, there is a nice café where you can get some much needed nourishment, a gift shop, helicopter tours, and more!
The view of the goal from the balcony. While I was ready to go into cardiac arrest, I saw what appeared to be a fitness couple just running up to the top. They didn’t stop there however, as the continued to run up the stairs into the lounge. Makes me wonder if the ran the entire way up the mountain. That’s intense!
While there was still much to do up here, I was in absolutely no hurry to start moving again.
Eventually I did start moving again, so I went around exploring the top of the mountain.
There’s some very well done wood carved statues scattered throughout the top.
There is also a zip line for people to enjoy!
Must be nice to be ziplining at such a high altitude!
You can also sit down and enjoy a lumberjack competition as well. While that may not sound like the most exciting thing to watch, it turned out to be pretty entertaining!
It’s not only a show, but also a display of what real world lumberjacks had to go through in the past.
Needless to say, this really showed just how hard lumberjacks had to work.
Not only did they show different tasks that lumberjacks had to undergo, they also showed what they did to prove who the best lumberjack was! This included an axe throw (please don’t try ANY of this at home!)…
While it’s all fun and games…
…it is still a sport, and just like any sport, you can be seriously injured, so please do be careful!
It was all topped off by this crazy nut making his way up the side of this pole “Mulan” style…
…and he was really high up there!
What view that must be!
After sitting around on one pole for a while, he fancied a change in scenery.
Now that’s a close call.
I’m not sure what would be going through my mind if I was that high up.
Apparently for this guy however, it meant juggling…
…followed by a hand stand. Once again, please do not try to attempt this at home!
Eventually the nutty man “fell” off the top, but not before securing himself to the adjacent zip line for a safe decent down!
There’s also a bear reserve at the top of the mountain, but on this hot and sunny day the bears preferred to be covered by the trees and stay in the shade where we couldn’t see them, so here’s a picture of a bird that I got really close to instead.
After a quick stop by the gift shop…
…it was time to make our way back down to the bottom.
As downhill travel is prohibited on the trail, we had to take a gondola back down which was fine by me.
For the record, you can also take the gondola up the mountain if you’d prefer.
Once we made it back down to the bottom, we learned that the Cleveland Dam wasn’t too far away, so we decided to check it out.
I must say, I haven’t seen anything like this before!
Reminds me of one certain James Bond movie…
Although I said I never want to see another set of stairs again, I think I would be happy to challenge the Grouse Grind again if given the chance. After all, the world is too beautiful to not photograph!
Click HERE to view the full photo set on Flickr.
More From My Vancouver Adventure:
Are We There Yet? – Onwards, To Vancouver!
Welcome To Rain City
Just Going For A Stroll – Stanley Park, Vancouver
The Vancouver Aquarium
Car Hunting In Vancouver
Island Of Dreams – Granville Island
Magical Ducks Everywhere – Richmond Night Market 2013
So Guuu’d – Food Adventures In Vancouver
Alice In Wonderland – In Search Of 1001 Steps