Discover Vancouver: Troubleshooting on the North Shore mountains





Are you ready for a steep climb? Be prepared for the unexpected when hiking Vancouver’s mountains.


Story by Sarah Berman

Photos by Kristian Secher


News photographer Kristian Secher wasn’t prepared for the Grouse Grind?but not in the way you might guess. Secher has plenty of experience climbing mountains, but a recent trip to Grouse took many unexpected turns.


“I got up really early, and I’d been out the night before but I didn’t have as much of a hangover as expected,” Secher recalls. “So I went on my bike. According to Google maps it was 21 kilometres, about 1.5 hours.”


An international student from Denmark, Secher set out to hike the Grind for the first time. He packed his bags for a full day of hiking: warm waterproof clothing, a camera, a meal and snacks, plus plenty of water. “It was such hell getting up the last bit before Grouse,” he says. “I was told Grouse is not the tallest mountain, but it’s the steepest to bike.”


The Grouse Grind is located in North Vancouver, British Columbia, at the base of the Grouse Mountain ski resort. As Secher noted, it’s a steep and mountainous trail that begins at the 300-metre-elevation and climbs to 1,100 metres over a distance of approximately 2.9 kilometres. The Grouse Grind hike is difficult, requiring high endurance and physical fitness. People with health concerns including high blood pressure, heart and breathing problems are warned not to attempt to hike the trail.


Unfortunately, when he arrived at the mountain, Secher discovered the Grouse Grind trail was closed. “Metro Vancouver watershed crews have been undertaking significant maintenance on the Grouse Grind and this work continues seven days a week. Critical trail work is expected to continue into May,” explains Metro Vancouver staff. “Upcoming maintenance involves rope railing maintenance, rock clearing, removal of dangerous trees and helicopter work.”


With the hiking trail out of commission until May, Secher says he had no choice but to take the gondola to the top. “I felt like it would be a waste to bike all the way up there. Without thinking I bought a ticket for the Skyride for $40.”


In mid-April, Secher still had the option to rent skis or snowshoes on the mountain, even though the snow was getting heavy and wet. It costs $18 for a two-hour snowshoe rental, and $22 for an entire day. “I thought I wasn’t going to limit myself to two hours, and I ended up walking around for almost four hours.”


“It was my first time snowshoeing,” Secher says. “I managed to fall a couple times. Once in front of four Canadians. Canadians will have a laugh at that.”


Depending on your fitness level, hiking can take anywhere from an hour and a half to several hours. The scenery is the greatest reward for your efforts. “It was nice,” says Secher. “Walking around you have this view over the Fraser Valley and Vancouver, with mountains all around you.”


When hiking, ensure that you leave yourself enough time to complete your hike before the sun sets. “When you’re going down again there are some quite steep slopes,” Secher recalls. “I noticed many people had brought plastic bags so you can slide down on them.”


Secher slid down the slope in just his nylon running pants. Not only did he get soaked, he also lost the keys to his bike lock. “The zipper must have torn on my back pocket, and the keys fell out,” he says. “I had looked forward to biking out, with the steep downhill.”


Secher decided to leave his bike locked to a lamppost and take the bus home. If you have a bus pass or transit fare, the 246, 247 and 236 buses run between downtown Vancouver and hte mountain. But Secher forgot one thing: to tell the resort staff he was leaving a bike overnight. “I had a brief moment of panic,” Secher says. “I had mentioned my situation to someone, and they asked ‘Did you report to [the staff] the bike will be there overnight?’”


With an unattended bicycle or a car left in the parking lot, the North Shore Search and Rescue staff may assume somebody is missing. This would launch an expensive and unnecessary rescue mission.


Secher went back to the mountain the next day, ready to cut his bike lock with a power tool called an angle grinder. Luckily, a rescue mission was never launched. “I went to the office to notify them we’d be making a lot of noise and sparks,” Secher recalls. “I asked if maybe somebody had turned in my keys… and there they were.”


With a day of unexpected adventure under his belt, Secher has some sage wisdom to offer fellow travelers in the mountains: “Bring a plastic bag to slide on … I noticed a few people brought fold-out chairs to sit on, too.”


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