Grouse Ascent 2015 No. 12

28 08 2015

Route: BCMC

Time: 01:32:58

A full five minutes faster than last time which was a surprise! Second born did her best time ever and completed the BCMC in less than an hour which quite pleased her. It was a little hot, but the forecast rains seemed to have kept people away and it was much quieter than recent weeks. That’s always good. I’m certainly not possessive of these public areas by any means, but personally I like to retreat to my own little world and mull over things when I’m hiking. Having people jockeying to get past on the narrow trail is quite distracting. So that makes 43 recorded ascents towards the 51 I need to claim Everest. I wonder if I’ll perhaps manage it this season.

The gate is staying open until 7pm still, but the nights are definitely drawing in, so it might soon be a challenge to get my ascents formally timed.


Worst thing? The strap on my FitBit broke a couple of days ago and though it seems to record my steps perfectly well from within my trouser pocket it does NOT record them if those trousers are stationary in the car while I’m trudging up Grouse… :S


Sabre Jet Engine Hike – the technical details

27 07 2015

So I realised I’d not shared the gory technical details of the route we’d taken yesterday to find the J-47 General Electric jet engine up on Grouse.

The engine itself can be found with a GPS at: N49° 22.050′ W123° 04.702′ at an elevation of 793m

Basically you need to hack straight up the Skyline Trail (we reached it by first hiking the BP Trail to the east from the use car-park, but you can access it via Skyline Drive, or by hiking the powerline trail). It begins at N49° 21.507′ W123° 04.794′.

Head straight up the obvious track, following the pipeline and at N49° 21.911′ W123° 04.760′, you take a clear, obvious trail to the east and follow it as it gradually comes north to run parallel to the Skyline Trail. The engine is on this path, and there is absolutely no need to bushwack. After the engine, continue on the path, heading north. There’s a couple of forks, but stay on the more obvious path (to the left in all case) and rejoin the Skyline at N49° 22.112′ N123° 04.740′.

Continue up the Skyline Trail until you emerge at the bottom of the Screaming Eagle ski run at N49° 22.272′ W123° 04.736′. From here, head straight up the ski run, following the chair lift, until you come to the track heading over to the BCMC. This obvious turn to the left is at N49° 22.587′ W123° 04.802′. From here, you just follow the track, past the top of the BCMC trail and over the rock to follow the pipeline back to the chalet.

It’s about 6.4km in all, if you start with the BP Trail leg. If you want to try a much less travelled route up Grouse, you could definitely do a lot worse!

Ascent profile - BP Trail; Skyline Trail

Ascent profile – BP Trail; Skyline Trail

Topo map of the BP Trail/Skyline Trail

Topo map of the BP Trail/Skyline Trail

Google Earth - 3D view

Google Earth – 3D view

Grouse Ascent 2015 No. 9

26 07 2015

Route: BP Trail/Skyline Trail

Time: 3:23:32

Well, the time is pretty irrelevant on this one… I hardly took the direct route!

Starting at the car-park, Mrs E. and I headed east along the BP Trail for an hour or so to the Skyline Drive road. From here, we headed straight up the hill (and I mean Straight. Up.) We were actually trying to find the remaining parts of a General Electric J-47 jet engine from a crashed US F-86 Sabre that hit Grouse in 1954, killing its 25 year old pilot. We took the Skyline Trail most of the way up, then took a detour to the east so that we could visit the engine, which is now a kind of memorial to the dead pilot.

That makes 40 recorded ascents… but for some reason the Grouse Grind Tracker is only counting 39, despite logging all 40. Perhaps it’s smart enough to know I didn’t really do the Grind, so it’s disallowing the exceptionally long time.

When we got back to the car-park, one of the pay meters was still broken, so I told a guy about to begin the Grind that he was wasting his time continually pressing all the buttons. He was in luck though – I’d paid for an “all day” ticket, as I didn’t know how long we were going to be. He might as well continue to make use of it since we were leaving. He seemed disproportionately pleased with his good fortune, and headed off to the Grind in particularly high spirits.

What do the Grind Mountain Categories like Everest mean? | TodoVancouver

7 08 2014

Just finished my 27th ascent of Grouse Mountain (plus a handful of snow-shoe grinds too).

Because I pay the extra $20 to have a “grind timer” it records my speed and the metres of ascent. I actually do the BCMC trail rather than the Grind these days. The Grind is just too busy and I find the Lululemon too, er, distracting.

Once you get to the top there’s a TV screen listing that day’s results. Last week, I noticed a lady had done it 4 times that day… the slowest in 38 minutes!

A few weeks ago I noticed my name was no longer accompanied by “Mt. Elbrus” but now had “Mt. Kilimanjaro”. According to this blog entry, I have a mere 24 more to do before I get “Everest”.

What do the Grind Mountain Categories like Everest mean? | TodoVancouver.

Here’s the whole list:

  1. Mt. Kosciusko, Australia – 7300 feet, 2228 metres – 3 grinds
  2. Vinson Massif, Antactica – 16050 feet, 4892 metres – 6 grinds but need 9 total ( 3 from No.1 above plus the 6 for Vinson)
  3. Mt. Elbrus, Europe – 18510 feet, 5642 metres – 7 grinds, 16 total
  4. Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa – 19341 feet, 5895 metres – 7 grinds, 23 total
  5. Mt. McKinley, North America – 20320 feet, 6194 metres – 8 grinds, 31 total
  6. Mt. Aconcogua, South America – 22841 feet, 6961 metres – 9 grinds, 40 total
  7. Mt. Everest, Asia – 29029 feet, 8848 metres – 11 grinds, 51 total

Depends how you look at it…

20 06 2013

It’s Thursday today.

I’ve tried to do the Grouse Grind regularly on Thursdays, after work. Today was my fifth time this season. Tenth since I paid for the timer chip and started officially recording my ascents last August. The first time I ever got officially timed (last year) I did it in an hour and 20 minutes. Not especially quick but I was quite pleased with it. You may recall that last April I did the Sun Run for the first time, and so by August I was arguably reasonably limber. Well – compared to my former self. The other timings of the year didn’t bear that out though, and on average I was a round 1:30.

If you have the timer chip, your time is displayed on a wide screen monitor at the top of Grouse in the chalet. It’s quite scary to see. There are plenty of people with times in the 30-40 minute range. There are also plenty of names that appear multiple times – meaning the person has ascended the Grouse multiple times that day alone. Last week a name was there TEN times. The slowest time was still less than an hour! It’s only about 3km, but it’s 1,231m high… and there’s a lot of steps. Some natural, some man-made to minimise the erosion.

I began this season reasonably well with an hour and 26. The next couple of times I was within a few seconds at around 1:24. Things were looking up. I might even be getting fitter, and might get back to last year’s all-time best! (I’m also trying to lose some weight and generally try and not die any time soon).

Then came last week. I was 30 minutes slower at 1:56. Weird! A whole half hour slower?! It was really humid though, and the top of the mountain was actually shrouded in cloud. I’m not making excuses you understand… I just couldn’t figure out how I could suddenly be so much slower. I was actually overtaken by the “sweepers” – a couple of super-fit Search and Rescue lads whose role is to amble up the Grind after the gate is locked and nominally nobody else is ascending that day. (In practice people circumvent the fencing, so plenty of people popped out at the top even after I made it up there). I did question the benefit of having sweepers at all if they actually left stragglers (me) behind, but I guess that given the fact that there was no practical way (due to fence hoppers) of telling who the last person actually was, it made no difference.

Anyway tonight it rained. A lot. I ummed and ahhed about whether to go at all. Nominally my son was going to take the SkyRide and wait at the top taking photos until I burst magnificently into the late sunshine out of the woods at the top of the Grind. He bottled out due to the bad weather. Or maybe because his girlfriend made him a better offer. Not sure. It may be a pertinent fact that as I write this at 11:45pm he has yet to come home.

Anyway – I got decidedly wet on the Grind. It’s a tough call for appropriate clothing. You want to travel light, typically in running gear with rugged trainers, contrary to the usual scout “be prepared” preference I’d have – carrying a 75l rucksack with stuff that would allow me to live comfortably on the mountain for a week no matter what happened. I tend to actually carry a small day sack – primarily to hold a 1l water bottle and leave my hands free. I also carry a lightweight fleece jumper in case I meet a nasty accident and have to wait for an extended period waiting for the embarrassing rescue that hopefully would arrive eventually.

(When hiking or going into the back-country ALWAYS tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back in contact. Nobody plans to have an accident…).

Today though – I half expected it’d still be raining, so I also took my super lightweight running shell. It’s not really that waterproof, but it cuts the wind and helps keep you warm if you need it.

And a cap. I’m not big on caps, but I wear glasses. Glasses are really good at correcting faulty vision… unless they steam up or get rained on (I wore contacts for many years purely to avoid steamed up glasses when I transitioned from wet dales hikes in Yorkshire to the “prize” of a pub at the end). A cheap peaked cap does wonders to keep the bulk of the “liquid sunshine” – as we call it Vancouver – off your glasses. I set off in reasonable time (i.e. I wasn’t caught up by the sweepers this week), but by the half-way mark, I was already at an hour, and it was obvious that I’d be logging another poor time. And this started me thinking of an earlier conversation I’d had about the psychology of challenges.

Many years ago, I was a Venture Scout Leader in the UK. I took a group of teenagers on a challenge hike – 40 miles overnight around the moors around Sheffield. The route passed various TV aerial masts, and was called The Masters Hike. It snowed. A couple of the teens wanted to drop out and despite my cajoling them through one more checkpoint, they finally quit. I exited the event at the same checkpoint. As we waited the 10 minutes or so for the “body wagon” – a long wheelbase Landy – to pick us up with the other folk exiting at that checkpoint, I got my second breath. Too late – I was already marked as “out”.

It was a huge lesson to me. I was about 25 at the time, and I vowed I would never quit such an event again purely on “mental grounds”. After that I went on to do many other challenge hikes including “Endurance 80” – an 80km (50mi), 24hr hike through the night. Glad to see that one’s still going strong.

So every time I start up the Grind, I have these little arguments in my head.

“Are you mad?


Are you mad? You’re nearly 50!


You’re pre-diabetic and have a heart problem.

Again – so?

Well this is just asking for trouble. You’ve barely started and you’re panting.

It’s good for you. It’s called “cardio”. The doctor said I should do more of it…”

And so it goes on – often all the way up to the halfway mark, at which juncture I point out to myself that even if I were to give in, it’s as far to the start as it is to the end, so I might as well continue. But behind it all is the memory of that terrible feeling I had as a young pup when I gave in for no other reason than a weak mental moment.

And so I keep going.

One. More. Step.

That’s one closer to the end. Well – do it again then!

And so on. Despite often sounding like Thomas the Tank Engine when I finally emerge at the top, I am rarely achy or physically exhausted. It’s way more a mental challenge than a physical one.

And the point of all this diatribe, you might ask?  Having taken 1:50 tonight, I initially thought “You’re getting old. Slowing down. Everyone passed you. You’re last”.

But then I thought:

“Yes. But I finished. That’s 10 Grouse Grinds since I started logging them. Probably about 15 altogether. All these people were faster than me today. But what about all those who are at home watching TV? Or who caught the SkyRide up to the top? How many of them have even done it once?”

And I smiled. And I ordered my usual cup of tea and fruit scone in the café. And I felt smug as I rode the SkyRide back down… 20 years the senior of everyone else who was muddy and in shorts.

I hope to keep winning the arguments with myself.

Snow joke

31 03 2013

Yesterday, my son joined me for another trip up The Snow Shoe Grind, up Grouse mountain. This is actually a hike up to the top of Dam Mountain, and despite having achieved the summit all but one of the 8 or so times I tried (I was on a timetable the first time I attempted it), I’d never seen the supposedly amazing views from the top. Despite the many adverts and photos, I’d also never seen “The Eye of the Wind” turbine up Grouse, except from a long distance, like driving over the Lions’ Gate Bridge.

But yesterday was a lovely day. Mid to high teens easily. We walked in T-shirts. The snow was terrible – like a snow cone mostly, and even like slushy porridge near the chalet where it was less protected from the sun. I think this will be the last snowshoe trip of the season. It was just too hard going in the slush. Even at the top, where arguably it should be coldest.

The view, however was amazing. We could see all the way to White Rock. We could see Washington State’s Mount Baker. And we could see the wind turbine!

A lovely day out “bonding” with the boy too. Topped off with the traditional London Fog tea latte, and a fruit scone when we got back to the chalet. (He had chicken strips and chips). In places the snow was down to the tarmac, and the timing post for the SSG was poking out a good metre, rather than being buried under the snow like in previous times earlier in the season.

But you know what this means? The regular Grouse Grind is hovering just over the horizon!

The view from Dam Mountain... with labels

The view from Dam Mountain… with labels

Of Yetis, Sienna Miller and Snowshoeing

9 02 2013

So my father-in-law just got a new car, in the UK. A Škoda Yeti. Here’s a great Top Gear piece showing how good they are if you feel the need to land a helicopter on the roof of your car, open a mobile (off-roading, no less) tattoo parlour… or casually pop Sienna Miller into your glove compartment.

Top Gear – Skoda Yeti road test – BBC – YouTube.

Seems like Jeremy Clarkson approves, so it can’t be bad at all. He’s from Doncaster, I believe. God’s Own County. Despite that… he’s still a bit of a plonker. Must be the water in Chipping Norton where Wikipedia tells me he now lives. There had to be a good reason…

While this car acquisition news was making its way through the internet, I was off doing the Snowshoe Grind Mountain Run, with Mrs E. I’d like to say it was “bright and early”, but as Rick Cluff on the CBC’s Early Edition says, it was actually “Dark and Early”! I was up (at least corporeally) at 5am. The upside was that the roads were nearly empty and I got a prime location in the Grouse Mountain car-park only an hour after setting out from White Rock. I can’t remember the last time I’d managed to park so close to the SkyRide.

Checking in was painless, and Mrs E and I signed away all our rights to everything including our first born and any superfluous kidneys we may be in possession of. In return we were given shiny racing bibs with some neat RFID strips on the back. I smiled, as I knew my own time could be just as easily tracked with an hour-glass or a sun-dial (the latter admittedly being less reliable at this time of year in The Lower Mainland).

We then joined a throng of far too energetic youngsters on their way to learn how to be Canada’s future Olympic Team. They had Nancy Greene Ski League bibs on and looked like they knew how to make a pair of skis fly. The SkyRide gondola was packed, which made it swing more robustly than usual as it went past the two pylons on its way to the Chalet. Let’s just say Mrs E didn’t enjoy it quite as much as most…

Source – Grouse Mountain: SkyRide Gondola

Now technically, as one might infer from the title of Snowshoe Grind Mountain Run, it’s a race you’re supposed to run. Well me and technicalities don’t always see eye to eye. Or even eye to navel. I had registered just to say I’d been there. That I’d taken part. We were up at the Chalet in plenty of time, and sat comfortably as the other competitors started to gather. (Forgive the blurry crappy BB photo.)
North Vancouver-20130209-00099

I thought it was the first time the race had been organised, but it turned out to be the third time. It was only my own fourth ascent to the race’s high point at Dam Mountain. On my last ascent (last weekend) I’d seen one of the competitors… twice! Plainly real training is necessary if you are serious about the numbers you leave to history on the Race Results Page. At the time, I’d just thought he was bereft of a social life. (It’s easy to be critical of people when you’re out and about… alone; bereft of a social life. :))

As Start Time approached, everyone made their way outside and donned their weapons of choice.

North Vancouver-20130209-00100

I was surprised at the variety. Some of the hard core had proper running snowshoes. Essentially these were a pair of trainers with snowshoes bolted directly to the soles. There were no bindings except the laces used to tie on the running shoes. They looked very lightweight.

The route, according to this Grouse Mountain map, is 5.5km in length (much of it shared in both directions,) and has a height gain of 800′.

SnowshowGrind Mountain Run 2013 route

Snowshoe Grind Mountain Run 2013 route

Now 800′ doesn’t sound like a lot… until you’re looking up at it! Actually, the two or three steep bits were way worse coming down. The Dam Mountain loop at the top was new to me, and not a part of the usual Snowshoe Grind route. It was a sensible addition though, as it avoided congestion at the rather sharp and small peak at Dam Mountain. People could flow off the peak and around the loop, rejoining the up-coming traffic at a much broader part of the trail.

There was one small downside though. As I mentioned in earlier posts, the “high heels” on my new snowshoes are awesome at aiding you climb steeper sections. There was something cathartic about reaching the peak and ceremoniously flipping them back down flat. “It’s all downhill from here!” Except now I was into this new-to-me route in the Dam Mountain loop. It wasn’t a particularly steep descent off the backside of the peak… but it had lots of fresh loose powder. For a little while, I forgot I was in a race, and waited patiently behind an older lady as she gingerly picked her way down. Then I remembered, exclaimed “sorry”, and took off past her in a flurry of powder and sweat. Not 20m later, I was skidding on my arse through virgin snow as my reward. Oh well – it helped cool me off a bit. Then came the downside… this Dam Mountain Loop has ascent in it! As it comes back to rejoin the main trail, it has some elevation to reclaim. Having mentally checked out of “the up bits”, this was a bit of a demoralising realisation. No matter though. We were in the guts of a low cloud, and I put my head down and dug in.

The event is well organised and there were probably a dozen or so marshalls at strategic points whooping and encouraging you on, as well as pointing you in the right direction. As is common in BC’s ski resorts, they mostly had Australian or UK accents. Students or world-travellers enjoying what BC has to offer and getting a little pin money while they’re at it. Almost at the peak, one particularly enthusiastic supporter had been cheering on the older lady and assuring her she was nearly there. When I got to her, I put on my best straight face and calmly asked if this was the bus-stop for the return shuttle.

There were only 69 entrants in all, which looking at previous years’ results seems par for the course. There were prizes for each age group, and extra prizes for “best dressed”. This guy won one of the two prizes … for being best undressed! The other (bending over) didn’t quite go so far, and wore a pair of cut-off denim shorts and a particularly dodgy red vest. As well as being best (un)dressed, the guy in tights was also fastest in his age group.

North Vancouver-20130209-00101

I managed to put in a bit of running on the return leg, despite the hiking boots, and so in spite of the addition of the Dam Mountain Loop section, I actually managed a time that was easily 5 minutes faster than my previous best SSG time. Despite telling myself I was there for the experience not to race per se… I couldn’t help a sprint finish and burning off 3 other competitors with the finish line well in sight. So  I wasn’t last either! 🙂

The best prize – available to everyone – was the full cooked breakfast in the comfy Altitudes Restaurant after the race. There was plenty of scrambled eggs and crispy bacon, as well as some quite zingy ginger and carrot juice concoction. I quaffed a litre of Whistler Water (one of the sponsors), and managed to studiously avoid the pancakes and rather delicious-looking potato chunks. There were some random prizes for entrants, based on your bib number, and Mrs E (who was very leery of even entering the race) managed to snag a pretty cool Molsons Canadian ’67 T-shirt (they were also a sponsor).

As we left, I realised I’d not had a hot drink, and managed to acquire two Earl Grey “Mighty Leaf” tea-bags on my way out. This brand is definitely better than average… though still not sufficiently so to justify the high prices charged for tea in such places. I suppose it might be considered stealing, since I had no intention of making tea right then. However, I figured after my busy morning, and given that the breakfast was fundamentally free… I’d bloody well earned them!

Would I do it again? Hell yes!