“If you spot a wolf, buy yourself a lottery ticket” this was the advice provided by the bus driver after we arrived at Grouse Mountain, Vancouver. He had just pointed out the wolf enclosure and was obviously a glass half empty kind of guy!
I was about to spend nearly a couple of hours hiking up the mountain on a trail known as the Grouse Grind in the company of Ronan from the Fairmont Vancouver Hotel for company. A low cloud shrouded the mountain, but Ronan assured me it would soon burn off, I wasn’t entirely convinced however, guess I can also be a glass half empty guy.
It was soon clear that the name was extremely suitable, grinding up seemed an apt description.
It seemed particularly difficult at the bottom as there isn’t any steady warm-up into the climb, it starts immediately and climbs relentlessly skywards. Reaching the quarter way up marker after some steep trekking was more torture than incentive.
It was blatantly obvious I have become very unfit, embarrassing considering my background as a fitness instructor, especially one with an affinity for the mountains and wilderness. However as the tough ascent continued I began to find my pace, steadily making my way up and ticking off successive markers as reached. This enabled me to enjoy the hike up into the clouds, the heavy mist was closing in and preventing any possibility of views of the nearby city.
This meant that it was pleasantly cool, helping ease the climb a little, it even began to rain after a while so unfortunately there aren’t any stunning images from the mountain top to share with you.
Most of the trekkers appeared to take it very seriously, there is an automatic timing system and it was obvious that many were almost racing up. Fellow ‘Grousers‘ were usually heard long before they were close, their heavy often rasping breathing a sign of the effort they were putting into achieving a new personal best. The fastest time of the day was 41 minutes, pretty fast but apparently the record is around 26 minutes!
Some of the locals ascend the mountain several times a week, a perfect natural workout. The ‘Grind’ is also known as Mother Nature’s Stairmaster, another name which is very appropriate, the well maintained trail consists of thousands of steps which provides a great cardio workout.
Eventually reaching the summit there was time to enjoy a local beer, which was pretty good, more than can be said for the coffee or the weather. The conditions had not improved and there was still wasn’t any opportunity to celebrate the trek up or savour the moment by soaking up the views of the city.
We took the gondola down as taking the trail isn’t allowed, and it usually provides stunning views of Vancouver …… usually!
Arriving at the bottom we immediately checked out the wolf enclosure, and lo and behold were treated to over ten minutes in the company of a beautiful white timber wolf. Time to buy a lottery ticket then! Even better our return bus driver was the ever optimistic gentleman from earlier, and of course we gloatingly shared our pictures with him.
Returning to the Fairmont Pacific Rim they had kindly booked me in for a VanActive treatment at the Willowstream Spa. This consisted of a foot bath and scrub, followed by an intensive leg massage and then having my feet marinated in paraffin wax. It was extremely relaxing and probably a surprise I didn’t fall asleep. The perfect recovery after the Grind for which it was specifically designed.
It was a really enjoyable day and returning to Canada for a return match will be cool, although somewhat fitter next time. The VanActive post-grind treatment has already become an essential part of the experience.