Vancouver man completes a record 5,000th Grouse Grind

Jason Chong became the first person to have done the Grouse Grind 5,000 times — over 1,400 climbs more than his nearest competitor

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The first time Jason Chong did the Grouse Grind it took him nearly three hours.

On Wednesday, it took the 49-year-old less than two to climb it twice.

“When I first started, I did not like it at all,” Chong said at the Grind’s finish area after his second hike up the trail that morning. “It was spring, it wasn’t officially open, there was still snow at the base and it was pouring rain.

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“I got lost. Long story short, I was cold and miserable. I did not want to come back again.”

That was in 2005.

On Sunday, Chong became the first person to have done the Grouse Grind 5,000 times, more than 1,400 more than the next person. And he’d added 13 more by lunchtime on Wednesday.

By the end of that first season two decades ago, Chong was hooked. It was a way to train for dragon boat races, marathons and triathlons, and it beat the heck out of a StairMaster or treadmill.

“I cancelled my gym membership, all my senses were awakened by being in nature,” he said.

Many people ask him why he does it, some ask if he’s mad.

“I’ve heard all the naysayers’ and critics’ comments, saying, ‘Why is that guy doing so many?’ And crazy? Yeah, I get that a lot, that’s one of the top comments I hear.”

But there’s community of people who have done hundreds and hundreds of Grinds. Chong is lucky to live on the North Shore, a 20-minute drive from Grouse Mountain, but he said he knows of others who make a daily trip from Surrey or Delta.

jaon chong, most grouse grind climbs
Jason Chong hated the first time he tried the Grind in the cold and rain. But he grew to love the challenge and the meditative nature of the climb. Photo by NICK PROCAYLO /PNG

Many of them were milling about mid-week, sweaty and, like Chong, looking to have almost zero body fat.

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“I know people with full-time jobs and families who do one in the morning before work and another one or two after work, every day,” he said. “I’m not the only one who does this.”

Chong, whose jobs have always been flexible, has seen it all: A guy who does the Grind barefoot, another who solves as many Rubik’s Cubes as he can on the way up, guys knocking back beers, one person with a prosthetic leg, another who was blind.

Chong has done the Grind going backward up the trail, just for something different.

An average hiker might take 90 minutes to complete the Grind. That was Chong’s target his first season. His personal best is 33 minutes, his average time now is 50 minutes, but speed is not his goal.

“I was doing it with my aunt, it took us three hours,” Chong said. “We took a break for a picnic lunch. I’m happy going whatever pace the person I’m with is comfortable at.”

On his own, he’s quit wearing ear buds, discovering that favourite songs can get tired and old after the 3,000th or so listen. Sometimes he’ll do word puzzles during the hike, other times he’ll just let his mind run free.

And when he times himself, there’s no smart watch.

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“I’m a Timex guy,” he said, holding up the old timepiece on his wrist.

Jason Chong
Jason Chong Photo by NICK PROCAYLO /PNG

The fog that settled on Grouse upset a few tourists who were hoping to see the city below, but it gave the mountain an enchanted feel as Chong strolled and chatted.

“I’m not good at sitting still,” he said.

The Grind has gone from being about cross-training to a way of finding peace of mind. He finds it restorative, he said. Meditative.

Chong doesn’t do the Grind every day. There has been only one season, in 2016, that he climbed up the trail all 202 days it was open, and there have been three seasons that he never did it at all.

But when his brain gets cluttered or when life takes its inevitable swipes, the Grind awaits.

“It takes you to a tranquil place.”

[email protected]

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