Deep Cove, Tall Mountain

Trip Start Jul 17, 2014
Trip End Aug 06, 2014

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Flag of Canada  , British Columbia,
Thursday, July 24, 2014

Tuesday I had all to myself. No plans. So I hopped in my trusty car2go and headed off to conquer a hike I'd always wanted to do. Quarry Rock.

The Quarry Rock hike is part of the Baden Powell trail, and you access the trailhead from just off the beach in the quaint little town of Deep Cove. Deep Cove is about a 45 minute drive from Vancouver proper, over the water on the North Shore. It’s about as far East as you can go before the land curves North again.

I zipped down the Transcanada Highway, and reaching the North Shore I was reminded just how much more wildlife there is on this side of the harbour. A very cute, fairly large deer suddenly materialised on the side of the road by my car ("please don’t jump out at me, please don’t jump out at me")… luckily for both of us the deer had no death wish that day. As I turned the bend into Deep Cove and caught sight of the water for the first time I also squealed out loud to nobody in particular. “OOOH THEY FILM BATES MOTEL HERE!!!” Instantly recognisable.

In fact, that’s something I really do miss about Vancouver – stumbling across film and television sets now and then. They don’t call it Hollywood North for nothing! Anytime you see a film by Lionsgate it’s almost DEFINITELY done here – the Vancouver studio’s name refers to the famous Lionsgate Bridge that runs from Stanley Park over to the North Shore. In the time I lived here they filmed, among other things, the new James Franco/Seth Rogen film downtown, '50 Shades of Grey’, and George Clooney was famously popping up in hotspots all over town. I even saw ‘Don Juan’ in the same cinema as Judy Greer once! ‘Once upon a time’ is filmed in Yaletown (which stands in for Connecticut) and ‘Supernatural’ is famously filmed in the area – Kyle excitedly told me about coming across the set by accident one day out in the woods near Tsawassen, stumbling across the impala of all things! Best ever!

But I’m getting distracted. After gawking for awhile, I parked the car and marched through the beachfront park over to the trailhead, took a deep breath, and began. Quarry Rock is classed as an ‘easy’ hike – but it weaves through the forest and the trail is rough and rocky. It has quite a few moderate sized inclines and it goes up and down throughout which I find quite mean. I hate having climbed a ways up to have to go down and back up again!

In 45 minutes or so though, the trees clear and you’re rewarded by having reached the rock... And some stellar views…

After heading back, I have a quick lunch before making my way back to the lower mainland. I meet Laura and Steve for a dumpling dinner at my favourite dumpling place in the world, before heading down to meet Charlotte and Verity at Stanley Park. Tuesdays throughout summer there are outdoor movies on the big screen at dusk (dusk, unfortunately for a weeknight, being at 9.30ish) and tonight it’s Footloose!! I’m enjoying hanging out with the girls but I’m really feeling exhausted and a bit off. I accept an early lift home with Charlotte, and drift off to sleep…

ONLY TO BE WOKEN WITH THE FEVER OF 1000 SUNS ALTERNATING WITH ICY ICY SHIVERS OF DEATH. My throat is on fire, my body is aching and I can’t stop shaking and coughing. I can feel fluid in my chest but my cough is as useless at clearing it as my ex-boyfriend was at not cheating on me. My throat is tight. There’s fluid in my throat now. This is so gross. I can’t breathe. I’ve just finished an article on brain-eating amoeba. I have brain-eating amoeba. Why did I go swimming?!?! I’m going to die. I need to contact someone. Tell them that if I slip into a coma to have the doctors cool my body so my brain doesn’t swell. It’s 2am and I’m dying. Oh God I’m dying. I need to go to hospital. To tell my mom I love her. I don’t want to die on Commercial Drive. Would it be so bad to die on the Drive? I KNEW I would die alone. Am I alone? God only knows. No I don’t want to die. Not now. I have unresolved arguments. My hair has not yet reached a satisfactory shade of pink. I’ve not yet been to Mexico. I’m only 2 episodes into Orange is the New Black! I burst into tears. Partly for my wasted youth. Mostly because the very next day is a day I’ve been looking forward to my whole trip. Grouse Grind with Trish and John. And maybe I can’t go.

I met Trish through Ciara, Alisha and Margaret – my aforementioned VGH workmates. Since I’ve arrived in Vancouver we’ve spent a lot of time together. Dinner my first night, the infamous deathball Friday, English Bay sunset dinner… and then Wednesday we were supposed to go up Grouse Mountain.

Grouse Mountain to me is my ultimate unconquered Vancouver experience. It sits on the North Shore behind North Vancouver and the views from the top are stellar, all the way across the harbour to the city from on high. It’s a 40 minute drive from downtown, so many people ski there after work. At Christmastime, Santa and real reindeer can be found at the peak, and in summer you’ll find bears and lumberjacks. I’ve never been up there, and it’s taunted me. Grouse is visible if you look North from many points on the lower mainland, including the street I lived on. For months it leered at me. Daily. Unconquered. This time, I was determined to conquer it.

There are two ways to reach the peak of Grouse Mountain. Firstly, you can take the skyride. A glass gondola will take you to the peak of Grouse in comfort and safety in a total of around 10 minutes. Or, alternatively, you can do the Grouse Grind. The Grouse Grind is a 2.9km trail up the face of Grouse Mountain, commonly referred to as “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster.” The trail is not recommended for anyone without an intermediate to advanced level of fitness. It’s uphill the ENTIRE way. There are 2,830 steps. It takes a novice hiker 2 hours. Average time is 1.5 hours. The fastest time ever is 23 minutes. The trail is so steep that it’s only open spring-fall. In fact, it’s so steep that Metro Vancouver have deemed it unsafe to descend. READ: If you start up the Grind, you cannot, I repeat CANNOT, give up and turn around. You. Can. Not. Walk. Back. Down.

So, Wednesday morning, I lay in bed fuming. I had survived the night, but the unconquered mountain seemed too much for my feeble body, racked with sickness. I dragged myself to the shower and stood under boiling hot water – hoping the heat would revive my aching body and boil away the brain eating amoeba. I slowly got ready and packed a bag. I was going to do this. I was going to attempt the Grouse Grind if I died in the process. I stuffed my face with an AW breakfast burger for energy, followed by various cold and flu drugs and caffeine. I took a deep breath and marched toward the skytrain. Away we go.

Two buses and the Seabus later, Trish, John and I approached the trailhead with trepidation. We stretched and limbered up before taking some happy before pictures and off we set. I kept pace with the pair for most of the first quarter (seemingly the longest) but soon sent them off ahead, promising to keep in touch on my progress by text – easy to do using the numbered markers on the trees. I kept pace with a few couples around me and took the climb one step at a time. It’s a rough hike, and it was not a very nice day. While I’d hate to do this hike in blistering heat, it’s bucketing rain which kinda sucks too. The tall trees offer some protection but on reaching the halfway mark the weather has well and truly rolled in. It’s foggy. It’s wet. It’s pretty… but it’s slippery. A girl near me says the halfway sign is ‘the worst effing sign she’s ever seen’.

I’m very glad for my giant water bottle and bag of popcorn, and so lucky I had the foresight to bring a plastic bag to go inside my rucksack for my valuables. I’m soaked through. A river of water starts flowing down the trail. Somebody tells me the first half is the worst half, and I’m buoyed by that thought as I continue. The second half does seem shorter for sure, but that’s partly because it’s just MASSIVELY steeper and involves some climbing up rocks, partly because I’ve just settled into a numb mindset of one foot in front of the other, and partly because I’ve started to hallucinate.

About halfway through the last quarter, I’ve separated from those I was keeping pace with – some falling behind and some steaming ahead. I’m alone. This is a cruel trick. There is no summit. I’ve been here forever. I was born on this mountain. I have lived on this mountain. I will die on this mountain. I hear a voice calling me through the fog... “Hey! Where did you come from?!?” … I blink, trying to see through the thick grey soup. “Ryan Gosling?!? Is that you?!?!” It’s not, but it’s a bunch of Canadian youths. “We haven’t seen anyone for ages!” they exclaim. We bond, as you do on the Grind. Even the fittest Grinders have pain etched on their faces as they pass you. Funny how pain gives you a sick sense of community. We continue together, hauling ourselves up the rocks using the bright orange ropes to assist us. And suddenly there’s hollering from one of them ahead. “WOOOOOOOOOOOOO! WE DID ITTTTTT!!!” Can it be? Oh yes! I can see it! The chalet! THE SUMMIT! “YEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!” (You can’t not make noise at the top of the Grind, it just comes out of you, like really loud noise vomit).

There is a summit. We made it. I made it. Brain Amoeba and everything. I HAVE CONQUERED YOU, GROUSE. YOU ARE MINE.

Of course, I can’t see any of the stellar view because of the thick fog. I don’t give two flying pigsh*ts. There’s hot coffee, there’s John and Trish ecstatic and waiting, there’s a gift shop with warm dry clothes, and there’s the cruisy skyride to the bottom. I’m too tired for the bears and lumberjacks. I’m too tired for anything.

I did it. From my deathbed to the top of Grouse in a day. I feel like I can conquer anything! But for today, I’ll just take myself to bed and order a panago pizza. Cos I deserve it. And cos I think I now have pneumonia. But I’ll deal with that tomorrow.

Love always,

Your B. xx
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