B.C. man ascends treacherous Grouse Grind a record 5,000 times

It's considered a Lower Mainland rite of passage.

The Grouse Grind, a popular North Vancouver hiking trail dubbed "Mother Nature's stairmaster," is a steep, 2.5-kilometre trail with an elevation gain of 800 metres and 2,830 stairs that wind up at the south face of Grouse Mountain.

And while most people do it a handful of times, Jason Chong, 49, has achieved a new record, according to Grouse Mountain, ascending the mountain for the 5000th time.

"It's a hard workout but I love it," Chong told CBC News as a reporter and camera operator hiked the trail with him on Thursday — his third Grind that morning.

Chong is a part of a niche but tight-knit group committed to pushing their limits, as a way to maintain their physical and mental health while connecting with the community.

Hikers are pictured on the Grouse Grind trail during the first day of reopening in North Vancouver, British Columbia on Monday, June 22, 2020.
While most people hike the Grouse Grind occasionally, some people complete it multiple times a day. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Nearly 20 years in the making

Chong first attempted the Grouse Grind when he was 30 in 2005 as part of a hiking club. It was a foggy spring day, with snow still on the ground, he recalled.

He ended up getting lost, and it took him almost three hours to complete the hike.

"After that experience, I was just miserable. I did not want to come back again," Chong said.

But he chose to return because he wanted an exercise that could work multiple muscles at once.

Now, 19 years later, his average time to complete the Grouse Grind is 50 minutes. People with a good level of fitness take two to two-and-a-half hours to complete it, according to Grouse Mountain.

Chong's best time is 33 minutes.

He likes to hike the Grind multiple times a day, and once climbed the trail 12 times in a single day.

Jason Chong said he still loves the view from the top of Grouse Mountain.
Jason Chong said he still loves the view from the top of Grouse Mountain. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

'Tight-knit' community

As Chong makes his way up the mountain, he's often greeted by his hiking friends and occasionally stops to take photos with people who recognize him.

He knows every turn on the trail and the best crevices to step on.

Chong said the community of hikers who complete the Grouse Grind on a regular basis is still small but has been growing over the years.

"The community is just a very tight-knit group of grinders that either do it once a day or multiple times a day or a few times a week," Chong said. "We all know each other so it's not different than like a running club or a swimming club."

Matthew Lyall, second from left, is participating in a multi-Grind challenge next week. He hopes to summit the trail 11 times.
Matthew Lyall, second from left, is a newer member of the Grind community, but has already done the Grind seven times in one day. (Submitted by Matthew Lyall)

North Vancouver resident Matthew Lyall is newer to the Grind community. He started consistently training on the trail in February to get in better shape.

The 24-year-old said he has completed the hike about 40 times, including doing seven in one day.

"It was just a challenge I set for myself," Lyall said.

'It's beautiful'

No matter your level of fitness, Chong says people should try the Grind at least once.

"Bring a friend and just make it a fun, memorable experience," he said.

While he also hikes other trails, the Grind is a reliable and efficient workout, Chong said.

And he's not sick of the trail's views — yet.

"If you actually stop and look around, it's beautiful," he said, gesturing to the towering pine trees surrounding the trail.

"It just levels you up mentally."