Trudeau reaches new campaign heights on the Grouse Grind

NORTH VANCOUVER -- The Grouse Grind, a 2.9-kilometre trek up 853 metres on Grouse Mountain, is a popular spot for anyone hoping to test their physical mettle - or, perhaps, demonstrate youthful vigour to the Canadian electorate.

"I'm hoping for a respectable time," Justin Trudeau, 45, said as he stood Friday morning at the bottom. "I just want to beat Tom Mulcair and Stephen Harper."

The Liberal leader was followed by some reporters, including me, and about 30 volunteers and candidates as he made his first trek up the North Shore mountain.

"This is going to be a lot of fun," he said as he sprinted through the gate.

At the first-quarter mark, most people were still with him, and Trudeau turned to 18-year-old volunteer Anna Yamaoka with a question: "Is it weird that I have Miley Cyrus's The Climb going through my head?"

Yamaoka stayed with Trudeau until the end, when he finished at 54.55 minutes. (Most people average an hour and a half to reach the top, while the official record holder has done it in 23 minutes and 48 seconds.)

But others started to fall behind. Although it was expected that Trudeau would stop at every quarter mark, he kept going, forcing cameramen to run to catch up.

"He just booked it," said Yamaoka, who noted Trudeau is super competitive.

By the halfway mark, I'd lost the Liberal leader, my legs struggling to tackle the rest of the 2,830 steps of "Mother Nature's Stairmaster." It didn't help that when I passed people who were taking a break from the climb they said Trudeau was "way up there."

I emailed my editor to say I'd lost Trudeau and thought I was going to die, then decided to interview his supporters.

My misery found company in the form of Brittany Whitmore, 27. She had almost turned back at the beginning, she said, after realizing it was harder than she remembered last summer. But she wanted to make it to the top to see Trudeau.

"It's very brave of him to do this for the first time," said Whitmore, who has been a Liberal since she reached voting age. "It's cool that he's doing this to engage with everyone, especially the volunteers because they've worked really hard."

Whitmore isn't a volunteer but was invited to join the epic trek with Trudeau because they needed more women. A lot of girls didn't want to sign up, she said, because they had to sign a waiver that they would be in videos and photos.

"I guess they didn't want their photos taken when they were all sweaty," she said. Whitmore was more concerned with whether she would make it. "I don't remember it being this hard," she said.

Yamaoka's friend Ekateryna Nova, 23, said the trek up the Grouse Grind with Trudeau was probably "the most fun political event ever." At the top, though, Trudeau only offered: "I don't think this something I will do every day."

That's what Yamaoka told me, anyway. I arrived too late.

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