Life’s A Grind


Check it out! A 3 kilometer slog up 2800 vertical feet, the same as climbing about 3000 stairs but steeper. A grind is a drudge, a plod, a slog, a repetitive, laborious, tiresome action. It’s not called “the Grind” for nothing. The Grouse Grind begins at the base of North Vancouver’s Grouse Mountain sky ride and follows it all the way to the top. It is not a hike. It’s not about the view or the scenery. In fact, all you see are the rocks and gnarly tree roots underfoot or, if you have the temerity to look up, a daunting darkness with only the occasional peak of sunlight promising the end. Nicknamed “nature’s stair-master” for some it is a challenging workout, for others like me, grueling, self-inflicted torture.

839809547_1c6cea4840.jpgWhat it looks like!

meridachichenitsa_247.jpgWhat it feels like!

I was first introduced to the mountain by “friends”. Fitness people! In fact when I first “did the grind” my friend Duane was there to push me up the last half of the peak. He offered to carry me and it was only pride that prevented me from accepting. Every time I have done it since, I ask myself the same question, “Why?” The only answer I have been able to come up with is “because I can”.

I have managed to ignore the place for the last couple of years but I was propelled into action by a reminder that in a matter of weeks, my friend Neil and I make our annual pilgrimage up the Lions in commemoration of the short but beautiful life of our mutual friend Duane. I need a “get fit quick” program and there’s nothing like the grind!

The “Lions” is a 15 kilometer hike up 4200 vertical feet that takes approximately 7 hours up and back – way longer than, but not as intense as the Grind. It is named after the twin peaks that apparently look like Lion heads in the distance.

View from the Lions

I set out knowing it would not be pretty. I have been a bad, bad girl, meaning too little exercise and too much “good life”, “good life” meaning the white truffle oil mac & cheese at Taste on Melrose, the truffle pasta at E Baldi on Canon Drive,  the lobster gnocchi  (with truffle butter) at AOC and  coffee crème brulee at The Chateau Marmont, – shared portions of course – bites only – mere waftings really, but enough to do damage, proving yet again that there’s no such thing as a free lunch!

 My motto of “live life to the Max” is now followed by “and pay the price later”.

And pretty it wasn’t.

After mere minutes my heart was pounding and I was gasping for breath. After more minutes I was dripping with sweat and regretting my foolhardiness. I felt like a whiney five year old. I was asking myself repeatedly “am I there yet?” “Am I there yet?” The answer was always “no”. Before long my lungs felt like they were about to explode and my legs were screaming at me “stop, stop you crazy bitch”. There is no stopping. The only thing worse than going up the Grind, is going DOWN the Grind! Once you are committed you are sunk.

A quarter of the way up it’s hard to fathom the appeal that draws some 100,000 trudges in a season. That may sound like a lot but there are some fruitcakes who do it many times a week and even some who do it more than once on a single day! Competition is fierce, everybody is obsessing about their “times”, aiming for a “personal best”. This is serious stuff. There is now a web site devoted to Grind mania with all sorts of interesting information. If you buy a seasons pass, you get an electronic timer card so you can track your own Grind details – total number of Grinds, Grinds this season, personal best, average time this season, overall ranking, ranking this season -  as well as the details of others – the season’s fastest male, the season’s fastest female, number of hikers a day, average and best times by age and gender categories, most grinds this season by age and gender categories, most grinds ever, most consecutive grinds in one day. Whoa, a trifle excessive you think?

There is even a face-book page for “grinders” billed as a “great place to meet other hikers”. More like a dating service for sadomasochists.

Half way up the only thing remotely entertaining about the experience was listening to some of the lies on the way up the mountain. “Don’t worry, you’re almost there” (half way), “the worst is over” (it isn’t) “the end is in sight” (it’s an illusion) “you’ll feel great at the top” (you don’t) “I’m usually way faster than this” (rubbish) “I’ll wait for you at the top” (asshole). I’m giving the last word to a little 8 year old boy who said to his mother “this isn’t fun” (NOT a lie!) She was annoyed because he couldn’t keep up. “I’m making great time” she said “I’m on track for a personal best. Wait here for the slow group and I’ll see you at the top” “You just left your 8 year old alone on a mountain” I screamed silently inside. But it was O.K. because she thought she could “see them in the distance”. These people are INSANE I thought to myself.

My time was a sad 90 minutes – a far cry from my glory days of 48 minutes. To put it in perspective my trainer Neil has posted a personal best of 36 minutes which pales in comparison to the course record of 26:19 by Mike Simpson.

(Six degrees of separation: Mike Simpson is the older brother of one of Mad Max’s best friends and a world class triathlete.)

When I got to the top the only thing I could think was “that’s IT - I’m NEVER doing that again”.

Two days later I managed to trim a hearty 15 minutes off my time – when I got to the top I said “that’s IT – I’m NEVER doing that again”.

Two days later I only managed to trim a measly 5 minutes off my time. Where did I go wrong? “Did I start out to fast?” “Should I have taken more water?” “Eaten a power bar?” “Did I remember to cut the corners off the zig-zag?” “Did I zig when I should have zagged?” “Did I pause too long on the bridge?”

Oh no…..I’ve become….like THEM!

duane_amphlett-640-x-480.jpg Duane Amphlett – Thanks for pushing me up the mountain and helping me Live Life to The Max!   

9 Responses

  1. Stephen Fitterman Says:


    Try taking the BCMC Trail up. It splits off from the Gind near the beginning and comes out about 100′ from the top of the Grind. It is a switch back trail and, therefore, much easier on the joints. Since taken by fewer people, it also means that you can enjoy the scenery rather than be concerned about the spandex ass in front and the line chargers behind.

  2. geezer girl Says:


  3. Now I know why i have never done it ( assholes) Says:

    Now I know why i have never done it (assholes)

  4. Anonymous Says:

    Oh, Peg. I was not prepared for Duane’s picture at the end. I should have been as he was a great motivator and the inspiration of many of our fun times and your trek to the Lions each year. I started to cry. Where did he go? Where did the “we” of that time go? What would he have looked like now? Would you still be doing 48 minutes with Duane at your elbow propelling you on?

    Regardless, thanks for providing the opportunity for a few tears while remembering a very sweet, dear man. Keep writing. You are touching hearts.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Peg, what are you trying to prove ? It was Mallory, when asked why climd Everest, his response was a delightful ‘because it’s there’ and of course the much more elegant, Ed Hillary on being on the South Col after his and Tenzings success in ’53 stated to George Lowe ‘we knocked the bastard off’

    You must be slim, tall and terrific now or at least the first and third characteristics. Kim is ‘doing’ 2.5 – 3 hours a day at the gym and has the figure and looks of a teenager. I am concentrating on swimming. Off to NZ for investment trip in next 2 weeks – look forward to catching up soon. David & Kim

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Peg, If you ever want someone to do the Grind with you, I would be thrilled. Have done it a couple of times and the only great thing about it is the amazement and laughter at the end! My time was a slow 55 min. but you can sprint on past at any time and we can meet again at the top!

  7. Vintage Electric Guitar Says:

    OK back to the Vintage Electric Guitar.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    Hi Peg,

    I always save ‘to the max’ for a treat. Just got around to reading it. Loved it. I try to do the Grind at least 1ce a year (because I can !)…have not managed it yet. You are an inspiration. Will get organized now mentally ….thank you for the boost!


  9. buy a car online Says:

    If only you could give a bit more information that would be great.

Leave a Comment

Please note: Comment's to this blog remain private. There is no need to resubmit your comment.

Recent Comments

  • [...] I was curious about the influences Kathy Venter cited,... on The Dreaming
  • My sweet Paki Sahili - what an amazing experience we shared!... on Mother India
  • Peg, finally got to read the brought back all the ... on Mother India
  • I want to say how much I enjoyed "Goat Givers and Other Lov... on Mother India
  • Peg You are an amazing women! To be apart of this incred... on Mother India
  • Hi Peg, Kim and I just returned from Rajasthan last night. ... on Mother India
  • Peg, I have held off reading this until I had the time to s... on Mother India
  • Peg.....Oh my gosh....loved it. amazing, fantastic...can't w... on Mother India
  • Peg ,my dear friend: You are a trouper. I know all the peop... on Mother India
  • Peggy: Looks intense and fascinating!... on Mother India