Summer has finally arrived in Vancouver and I thought it was time to get out into nature and the outdoors and to see some awesome views.
The Grouse Grind
I decided to complete the gruelling Grouse Grind (aka: The Grind) for a second time almost three years apart. I attempted it first time round within 14 days of arriving in 2014 and I was not prepared (I believe this was mentioned in an earlier post). This time round, I made sure I had eaten breakfast and packed a backpack complete with protein bars and two litres of water for the journey upwards.
I was dropped off at the base of the mountain by Adam on his way to work at 7.45am and started natures never-ending staircase. The Grind is 2.9kms of 2,800 steps and it is not for beginners. I consider myself reasonably fit with good cardio and strength but even I found it challenging as your glutes and quads need to be stong as well for the steep steps.
Local people complete The Grind on a weekly basis trying to beat their time.
The first quarter of the grind is the longest but less steepest, I reached this after 35 minutes. Halfway mark was another 20 minutes later and another 20 minutes to three-quarters.
It took me an hour and 40 minutes to get to the top and I had quite a few breaks. I was a sweaty mess but felt fantastic. My advise is if you need to stop and rest then do it as it’s not a competition to get to the top.
The views were fantastic:
Once you get to the top of Grouse Mountain, there are a lot of activities and things to see because it is a major tourist attraction; although I did The Grind for fitness reasons it was mainly to see the tourist stuff at the top without paying the $50 gondola fee.
First stop was to see the grizzly bears, Grinder and Coola – these guys were orphan cubs and are now looked after by some conservationists and volunteers. They are a big attraction for tourists to see and I work with someone who volunteers to care for the bears.
Another thing I wanted to see was the lumberjack show, a cheesy and stereotypical Canadian show for the tourists to Vancouver. Unfortunately I only got videos of the show and I am unable to upload onto the blog but its worth seeing if only once lol.
I spent an extra 2 hours up at the top to check out all the stuff and the views and I walked up to the wind turbine at the highest point – it is a shame that the gondola cable blocks the awesome views of Vancouver as I was hoping to get some.
The only downside to The Grind is that you have to pay $10 to take the gondola back down to the base as it’s too narrow and dangerous for hikers to travel backdown the same route.
This is a hike that I heard so much about and desperately wanted to do. The Chief is a mountain in Squamish, about an hour north from Vancouver along Sea-to-Sky highway. I was informed by people who after completing the Grouse Grind on Monday, The Chief would seem easier…
As I had a day off work on Friday, I decided to complete my mission. Leaving Vancouver at 6am and driving along a beautiful stretch of highway past Horseshoe Bay and Lions Bay, I arrived at 7am in an empty car park of Shannon Falls.
The waterfall was great but as it turned out I should have parked in the Stawamus Chief car park because it took me half an hour to find the base of the climb through the Sea-To-Sky Gondola car park and Stawamus Chief Provincial camp site.
The first 30 minutes was just climbing steps and rocks to the first intersection – it felt exactly like The Grind…
At the first fork in the path, you veer left to carry on The Chief trails and right to another hike called The Sea-to-Sky summit – this hike takes you to the top of where the Sea-to-Sky gondola is. The annoying thing about the latter is that like The Grind, once you get to the top you are supposed to take the gondola back down – at a cost of $15! I decided to carry on with The Chief as that was what I was there for.
The next fork separates First and Second Peak from Third Peak. Third Peak is the highest but also furthest away, I had also been informed that the views were better at Second Peak so I carried on towards there.
After more climbing upwards, I came across a little clearing to the right of the trail. At first I thought this was First Peak but then realized it wasn’t facing Howe Sound and Squamish. The area had a large boulder on it and some very friendly chipmunks wanting food – a great place stop, take a breather and look at the views.
After leaving the clearing, I arrived at the last fork to split the route from First Peak and Second Peak, I kept on with my route to Second Peak.
As I traveled nearer to the summit, the route got narrower between the rocks and I came across the chains to assist me with getting up. The Chief is very popular with climbers because of exposed rock but it can very dangerous when wet due to people slipping off.
There were a couple of very steep points, where you needed to use the chains and had to be careful with your footings. I had to ask a couple of hikers, coming back down from the peak what the best way was to get up a very steep stone with a narrow foothold with only chains as a support.
Once I got to the top, the view was amazing and worth all the sweat and hard work. The route from the bottom of The Chief trail to Second Peak took me just over an hour and a half, which I thought was pretty good considering I was stopping a few times for a water break.
Unfortunately I was starting to feel anxious about travelling back down the trail with all the chains so I decided to start that process and take my time. Good news was that no one seemed to be making their way to Second Peak from first but this would have been bad for me if I had put a footing wrong and slipped as no one would have been around at the time.
I returned to the fork that split the trail from First Peak to Second Peak, making my way towards First Peak. It was now around 10am and the trail was getting busy. I thought that First Peak being the closest and most popular would be easier but that was not the case. Once you pass the chains to help you up and a narrow ladder, it is scramble on the rock to get to the summit. It took approximately another hour from Second Peak to First Peak.
First Peak was definitely more popular but offered a better view of Squamish compared to Second Peak.
After an hour of listening to more music whilst relaxing and watching the friendly chipmunks looking for food, I was feeling the hot sun on my back and reluctantly started to make my way back. I personally found the journey back to the bottom more difficult than climbing up. A couple of times I slipped and it was getting very busy with more and more hikers coming up.
After using the Sea-To-Sky Gondola washroom, I made my way back to the car and drove back to Vancouver. When I got back I found my right ankle was very painful and swollen from where I had slipped. I found I couldn’t walk properly or put pressure on it. After 20 minutes using a cold compress on my ankle it was less painful so I don’t know what was the problem.
Next time round I would love to travel to Third Peak as the view is a lot different. I would also wear proper hiking shoes next time with good grips from the exposed rock; I wore runners and didn’t think they were suitable or safe enough for the hike. I also saw a lot of people hiking flip-flips, which I would also advise against.
Getting to Stawamus Chief early is important because it can get very busy towards the middle of the day. It was worth getting up at 5am for this opportunity.