British Columbia

19 times in 19 hours: Man holds new Grouse Grind record

On June 21, the day of the summer solstice, 57-year-old Wilfrid Leblanc ascended the grind a record-breaking 19 times — starting at 4 a.m. and ending at 10 p.m.

Wilfrid Leblanc set the record at a challenge organized to raise funds for BC Children’s Hospital Foundation

Wilfrid Leblanc was motivated by tendinitis that prevented him from running, as well as a desire to raise funds for the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation after he saw his friend's son grapple with a severe lung problem. (Brandon Crichton)

For some, a single ascent of the 2.9 kilometre-long Grouse Grind could be enough cardio for the week. 

But not for Wilfrid Leblanc. 

On June 21, the day of the summer solstice, the 57-year-old Vancouver-based engineer completed the hike a record-breaking 19 times —  starting at 4 a.m. and ending at 10 p.m. 

That's roughly one ascent every hour. The Grouse Grind's 2,830 steps has earned it the nickname mother nature's stairmaster.

"You're going up stairs for 800 metres. It's a long way and if you're doing it multiple times you better get out there and train a lot," said Leblanc, who works as an engineer in Vancouver.

For a cause

Leblanc set the record at the multi Grouse Grind challenge organized by Grouse Mountain every summer solstice to raise money for the B.C. Children's Hospital Foundation. This year's challenge raised over $57,000 in total.

Leblanc's arduous mountain-climbing excursions and long runs over the winter came in handy, he said over the phone to CBC. 

But it was an injury — a tendinitis in his heel — that motivated him to frequent the Grouse Grind trail since he couldn't run. 

"Because the Grind is low-impact and it's stairs — that was easier on the injury," said Leblanc.

Brooke Spence set a new female record of completing the Grouse Grind 18 times.

And raising funds for the B.C. Children's Hospital Foundation gave Leblanc a greater purpose.

Leblanc recognized the importance of the hospital when he saw a friend's son suffer from severe lung problems. 

"He has been in the ICU around five times. It's very daunting to have a child that's not well. By then, I was committed [to participate in the challenge]," said Leblanc.

Banter made it fun

Leblanc wasn't alone in supporting the cause. 

Brooke Spence, 37, bettered her previous record of 17 laps by completing 18 ascents in the same amount of time. She now holds the female record for completing the Grouse Grind. 

"I knew we were moving along pretty good and by early-afternoon I knew the record of 18 was doable," said Spence. 

The Grouse Grind is a 2.9 kilometre vertical climb made up of 2,830 steps.

She said having company on the trail also made a difference.

"Wilfred and I were together up until lap 13 and it just made it so much enjoyable. Even if you may not have been feeling very good, you could feed off other people."

"It made the time go by so much faster."

Leblanc too enjoyed a strong start, but by the end, fatigue caught up to him.

"In the first 18, I felt as good as one or two. But on the 19th I felt kinda sick and barely talked to anyone," said Leblanc. 

He salvaged enough energy to scale it once more and become the new record-holder. 

Ànd he's recovering well after the challenge.

"I went for a 20-kilometre run two days later."