Is the 'Grouse Grind' a reflection of Vancouver Culture?

If my first impression of the Grouse Grind was of a touristy experience, it still held a charm that allowed me to occasionally go back and enjoy it. The intensely corporate context of the site is still physically challenging and socially compelling.

In 2003 I took a photo that managed to capture the magic of that year's climb. The first time we took our daughter with us in 2006, she bravely slept most of the way up, sitting on my shoulders, her head resting firmly on mine.

In 2009 my parents visited us from Israel for the first time. Our relatives from Portland joined us to spend some family time with them. We all went out to enjoy the place, most of the pack taking the cable car. Phyllis, my relative's wife and I took what turned out to be the bonding experience of walking up the hill.

A few years later, my in-laws were seriously injured by a car on a visit to Germany. This happened just a month before we were scheduled to have a family vacation in Israel. The timing was such, that sticking to plan was the most helpful choice. They were helped back home by Anat's brothers. We kept on with preparing the now slightly changed context of our visit. Just two weeks before flying to Israel, we took Inbal for her first on-foot Grouse Grind. Inbal, then nine years old asked me after completing the course: "do you think grandpa would manage the climb?" "Sure." I responded. "Even grandma could." Inbal, in surprise: "You think so?" "Of course." I continued. "She might not want to, but she definitely could."

It is an atypical warm summer in Vancouver this year. Still, nothing compared with other regions in the world. Again, in a few months we are scheduled for a visit in Israel. Anat's parents are planning their vacation in Tanzania a few days from now. Inbal's second climb to the Grouse was an uneventful, enjoyable weekend experience.

However, my impression is that the place has become even more touristy; even more corporate. The socially compelling side of the physical challenge looks to me now a bit like an anthropological observation opportunity. I enjoyed walking along a family whose daughter, younger than Inbal, patiently waited for her parents, guiding her even younger sibling. The effort makes for talking to be minimal, but the occasional exchange with others gives a curious sense of community.

While my leisurely pace is still that of a fit person, the many competitive climbers make me think of the diversity of participants in this venue. In the past I was amused to think that although walking up the path is not for everyone, it could sometimes feel like you're in the middle of a downtown sidewalk. I was reminded of that thought while braving one of the narrower sections of stairs, close to the top.

Some people were a step or two in front of me, a few behind me. Not a lot of room for passing or letting others pass. You just wait patiently for the next widening of the path to make your move. If at any point someone lets you through, a quick thank you is all that is exchanged. Then the breath and steps of a quicker climber were getting closer until I hear from behind an impatient "excuse me". There isn't a lot of room to move sideways so I continue climbing. When she asks again and passes the pack I am with I'm not sure whether I'm amused or irritated. As a newly minted Canadian I probably should have said "Sorry". Being who I am I'm happy to have avoided a confrontational "Excuse me!"