Throwback Thursday: Grouse Mountain’s Many Victims

For some reason, I have been the cause of many of my friend’s first attempts of the dreaded Grouse Grind or BCMC trail.  Sometimes it’s been at my encouragement, and other times (like this weekend) responsibility lies fully on the other party.  For most, it turns out to be a one-time event.  I can’t say I blame them.

For those outside of the Vancouver area, the Grouse Grind is a local “hike” that is essentially a 3 km trail up the side of Grouse Mountain, built in such a way that it closely resembles a rock staircase. There are all sorts of races and competitions here, and locals wear their PRs as a badge of honour.

Despite its popularity and local fame, I assure you it is one of the most unpleasant trails you can imagine. It is crowded. It is relentless (and psychologically crippling) in its climbing. It has no views until the top.  No sane person enjoys it.  But it is one hell of a workout, which is why so many of us–myself included–keep going back week after week.

So this weekend I took yet another friend, at her request, to hike the Grind. It came as no surprise that she did not enjoy the experience.  It got me thinking about the various things people have said to me before trying the Grouse Grind that were quickly proven wrong and the extent to which my warnings tend to be ignored.

I present to you my favourite list of comments/observations before and during Grouse Grind events:

  • “It can’t be that bad.” No matter how much you tell people it sucks and will make you hate your life, they cannot conceive of how it can possibly be that bad…until they do it. Then, and only then, do they understand.
  • “I’m in good shape. I’ll go slow and I should be ok.” I firmly believe fitness plays a relatively small role in Grouse Grind success.  It’s a mental game.  Further, on the fitness front, the only thing that really prepares you for the Grind, is doing the Grind (or running stairs…or hiking steep trails on the regular).
  • [Before starting] “Maybe we should start doing this weekly!”  This early enthusiasm never gets my hopes up as, inevitably, at the end of the trail the first words of out most people’s mouths are “OMG, I’m never doing this again!”.  To date, only two people have continued on to multiple Grouse or BCMC excursions.
  • “This isn’t so bad so far.” These are what I like to call famous last words.  Usually, the words are accompanied by an increase in pace. I warn people to go slowly at first even if they feel like they can go faster. It is a marathon, not a sprint.  No one ever listens. And then they suffer.
  • I try to prepare people for the fact that the 1/4 mark sign is the most psychologically damaging point on the trail.  Most people roll their eyes at me or give me that ‘sure, sure’ kind of look. Again, no warnings can prepare people for the experience of seeing that 1/4 mark sign after climbing for what already feels like an eternity. It is the epitome of demoralizing.
  • “I’m just going to stop for a second. Why don’t you keep on going?” I now know this as the beginning of the end. Admittedly, I almost always take people up on their offers, not because I’m an insensitive ass (though sometimes I am) but rather because I fear their hellish experience may cause them to seek immediate and shocking retaliation against me for bringing them there. If I’m out of reach, they cannot exact their revenge.

If you learn nothing else from this blog, which is highly probable given its generally uninformative nature, learn from the heaps of friends and colleagues who have suffered at the hands of the Grouse Grind.  It is not for the faint of heart and is never enjoyed. It is merely tolerated by those crazy fools, such as myself, who enjoy punishing their minds and bodies on the regular.




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