It was summer in the Canadian Rockies and I’d spent the better part of a week cramped into a small van with 12 or so strangers, taking in mountains and lakes that began to blur into one as each day passed.
On one afternoon late in the week, our tour guide bounded out of the van, ready to lead us on a hike. Actually, this guy bounded everywhere; he seemed to have endless energy. He kind of reminded me of a puppy. In a good way.
Unfortunately I was about to disappoint the puppy.
Even though it was June, it was actually snowing a little and I was freezing. My introvert’s need for space was reaching extreme levels after being around that many people I didn’t know and my tired old bones just didn’t have it in me to scale a mountain that day.
Also, I’d already done the Grouse Grind back in Vancouver, as a kind of a F U to this Canadian guy who had insisted I wouldn’t like it and I wouldn’t be able to do it. One way to get me to do something is to tell me I won’t be able to hack it. I’m fairly predictable that way. So, annoyed by this man and his certainty about my fitness, I took myself over to the North Shore and endured one of the most grueling workouts of my life.
That thing, man. It’s straight up a mountain for 2.9km, with no flat bits, plateaus or breaks. Just up, up, up. I pushed ahead, sometimes stopping for breath (in the places where you can do that without getting bowled over by a hundred aggressively fit Vancouverites screaming “on your left!” as they sprint past you), sometimes feeling like I was going to pass out and fall backwards all the way down the mountain.
They say there’s a lumber jack show and bears and all sorts of other attractions at the top of Grouse Mountain. I wouldn’t know, I didn’t see any of that. All I saw after reaching the top was a kiosk where I might be able to take my tomato red face and weary legs and sit for a minute, and think about the consequences of my actions.
The Canadian dude was right about one thing, I didn’t like it. But I did conquer the Grind; I can’t remember my time exactly but I think it was around the average of 1.5 hours. After my red face started to subside (I believe it was about three days later) I even started to think maybe I would make it a regular thing. I had visions of being a Lululemon clad goddess, doing the Grind twice a day and scoffing at tourists like myself about how they wouldn’t enjoy it. Then I remembered who I was and spent the rest of my time in Canada under a blanket eating ice cream.
Anyway, with memories of the Grind fresh in my mind, I, along with three other sensible souls, broke our tour guide’s heart and told him that no, we would not be hiking up a mountain that day. And then we climbed back inside the van and read our books mostly in silence, only speaking every now and then to comment on how pretty the snow was or offer each other chocolate. It was total bliss.
By now you’re like: cool story bro. But the point of all the words is I’m not usually a mountain climbing person. So it’s completely out of character for me to say “hey, how about we get up at 4.30am and go climb a mountain at sunrise?” And yet, that’s exactly what I did recently when my sister-in-law and I climbed Toowoomba’s answer the Grouse Grind, Table Top Mountain.
As a 1.9km return hike Table Top Mountain is a mere patch on the Grouse Grind in distance but it was challenging in its own way. Mostly, I was surprised to find it was less hiking, more rock climbing.
The trail starts at the base of a camel’s hump, so it goes straight up with no delay. You basically have to climb a mini version of a mountain before you get to the real thing. It’s a good cardio workout, because even though it’s steep, the rocks are huge and easy to grab onto so you can go quite quickly.
As I reached the top however I slowed my pace – there are some truly steep parts, with really loose rocks and slippery dirt. The final ascent to the summit is a scramble up a cliff. I had actual genuine fear doing this. I know it wouldn’t be daunting for most people but I don’t do this every day you know? At one point I was clinging to the rock face, actually frozen. I was the girl in the movies who holds everyone up from getting out of the building before the blomb blows because she doesn’t want to climb up the elevator shaft.
However, I got a grip and made my way to the top and was greeted by spectacular views of the Lockyer Valley. (Going down the cliff was just as, if not more, scary.)
Having lived in Toowoomba for almost 20 years now Table Top has been this thing that I’ve looked at and always wondered what was at the top. I’m happy to say, now I know. And I may even go again. Wearing Lululemon, of course.