Peace of Mind

Intelligent Deterrence

Car-Free Grouse Mountain

Heard across a street. Highly intelligent. A bike alarm like no other! $210 CAD. Direct from manufacturer: $120 CAD.

This is not a how-to; rather, it is a record of my own practices–often unsuitable for most people.

Grouse Mountain is easy. It’s the most accessible of the local mountains, in the North Shore area of Vancouver. The public transit option is bus, from downtown, either over the Lions Gate bridge or via the Sea Bus. They take you to the bottom of the mountain. To reach the top, you can either hike up (see below) or take the gondola. There is no biking to the top (see below).

The bus option from downtown requires a transfer once you reach North Vancouver. The Sea Bus option, too, requires transferring to a bus at Lonsdale Quay.

All of the above can easily be gleaned from or search engines. So, I’ll instead tell you about the less-covered info. For instance, do be mindful of your return time: busses are not as frequent in the evening, except perhaps during the ski season.

Biking From Downtown

As with busses, you could bike to the Sea Bus. Once across, at Lonsdale Quay you could bike west towards Grouse Mountain. This’d not be a great way of doing it, since there is no clear, peaceful, direct way. The paths along the water are recreational, not for transportation; thus, it’ll take too long, and there may well be discontinuities or route-finding. If, instead, you take the streets, there’ll be a lot of traffic. Sections have bike paths marked by only paint. There is a lot of dense, fast, car traffic. It’s fine if you want adrenaline, otherwise not a safe option.

The better option is to bike over the Lions Gate bridge. A very popular route, it takes you through Stanley Park. No, not the quiet parts of the park, but the ’causeway’ filled with cars! It’s a pretty well-built path, however, and even the bridge itself is very bikeable, albeit noisy! (All that metal amplifies the traffic noise.)

As with the Second Narrows bridge option, the north end is a bit of a spaghetti junction, but not as bad. Capilano Road is fairly close, but there is always traffic along it. The bike path is paint-separated, but it is not a bad route. The main issue with biking to Grouse is the long, slow, gradual incline that is Capilano Road, and the Nancy Greene Way which it joins. Though the elevation gain is not a lot–after all, you’re just going to the base of the mountain–it is more draining than you’d expect, even on a chilly, autumn day.

The ride back is nice, of course: Nice, high-speed coasting for much of the way.

Do note that this can be a popular route with cyclists. You’re likely to see no shortage of roadies.

Getting to the Top

Most people take the gondola, especially in winter. This is part of the Grouse resort operation, so they charge for all the attractions–over $40, the last time I checked. If you’re a local resident, then you can get a Locals Pass which is only $120 for a year. I expect that, during the ski season, the gondola ride would be included in your season-pass price or day ticket.

The sole alternative is to hike up. For most people, especially in non-winter seasons, that’d be the famous Grouse Grind–a steep hike, gaining about 850 meters or so, over a distance of 3 km. A bike+hike combination entails biking to the bottom of the Grind, then hiking up.

An alternative hike is via the BCMC trail. At the bottom of Grouse Grind, right past the entrance gate, the trail forks: The right-hand side take you towards the BCMC. More accurately, it takes you to the Baden Powell trail, but the BCMC branches off of that in … I don’t know, 300-400 meters or so?

The Grind is one-way only, and, strictly speaking, closed in winters. The BCMC is two-way, and open year-round.

The elevation profiles of the two trails are different, with the BCMC being more flat near the top–and perhaps arguably a bit steeper at the bottom. Both are very shaded hikes, under the canopy.

Once at the top, you could either hike down via the BCMC, or take the gondola down. The latter is $10 or so, if you’d not paid for a ticket to go up. Nearly all of the hikers take the gondola option to go back down.

For the record, I’ll point out that there _is_ a route for biking to the top of Grouse. But it starts on the neighbouring Fromme Mountain. There is a service road that starts at the top of Mountain Highway, in the Lynn Valley area. (This is where the single-track mountain bikes congregate for their trails.) But I’ve not done it, and I don’t know whether it’s permissible.

North of Grouse Mountain

Disclaimer: I’m a bit of a nutter, with decades of experience. The following is not for 99% of humanity.

The Grind offers a tough bike+hike opportunity. The bike up is bad enough (especially in summer heat); the hike that follows is worse still. (Seymour and Cypress offer the same, though not as short, sharp, shock a hike as the Grind.)

And, in winters, get out your crampons. You could get away with trail crampons, but you’d better have poles with you as well. You’d not need mountaineering crampons. But snowshoes would not do. Ski-mountaineering snowshoes, with deep crampons, would be good, but the trail can be very uneven for snowshoes. I don’t recall seeing anyone using snowshoes on the Grind, in winter. Perhaps the best combination would be WPB boots (the harder the soles, the better), trail crampons, and ski poles.

Of course, the Grind is closed for winters, so there are very few people there.

Personally, nowadays, I use the Grind as a means for getting to the mountains north of Grouse–Dam, Goat and Crown. While I have hiked to these in other seasons, I mainly target them for on-snow activities. This entails packing a load that is a combination of skis, ski boots, mountaineering boots, gaiters, ski-mountaineering snowshoes, mountaineering axes (if I’m heading beyond Dam Mountain) and ski poles. And I have to have footwear etc for the hike up the Grind as well! (I hike in sandals, so they save bulk & weight as well.) The area south of Goat mountain offers short, but pleasant tree skiing. The climb towards Dam is fittingly called/marketed as the Snowshoe Grind; you’d best bring along poles, as it is a steep channel! Crown mountain itself is a steep climb, best done in summers. In early Spring, I’ve used two axes to get up Crown; I would not attempt it without. And mountaineering crampons and their requisite boots.

Being car-free, the amount of daylight is a huge factor for long days such as the above. The busses that go to Grouse do not start early (except possibly in winters?). Spring offers longer days, but it might still not be enough: Reaching Grouse, then Crown, and back, would make for a long day; and even longer if it includes a hike up the Grind! I _have_ done things such as bike+hike, though biking up a large pack is no mean feat! I _have_ walked up Capilano Road, when there was no bus available; and once I managed to hitch a ride up Capilano Road. Typically, however, the first morning bus would be ideal. (In practice, this does not always work: Coming from South Van., it may take too long to reach this magic bus, for the gain to be worth it.)

The route from the resort towards the Snowshoe Grind may be marked, but is the same as the summer route anyway, so it is not hard to figure out. It takes you towards Dam Mountain, after which lie Goat and Crown. Enough people take the route to Dam and Goat that, at least in Spring, the route is easy to follow. Crown, however, lies beyond the marked trails. It is out of bounds, in winter. Add to this the frequently low-lying clouds, and it becomes very easy to get lost there. The snow-covered landscape looks much more different than one even expects. It took me a few seasons to figure out the winter route to Crown. (Not really winter, but early Spring.) While the summer route is taken by quite a few people, I kept on failing to find the/a winter route. Once one reaches Goat, in the vicinity of Crown Pass, the route down becomes unclear. (You have to descend towards Crown Pass, via a chain section, then climb back up, towards Crown.) I know the area very well in summer, and had frequently hiked up via the Hanes Valley route as well; still, it took a few attempts. I have an account of this on, which I will duplicate to here, at some point.

Even if it weren’t a Ten Essential, a head-lamp is mandatory for such long days. More than once I’ve hiked down the BCMC with a head lamp, in the darkening dusk.

Trip report about going to Crown Mountain.

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