Abraham Peirson greets a visitor at the door to his apartment with a bone-crushing handshake and a cheerful hello.
It is one day after the Langley resident turned 91 (on Wednesday, Aug. 31) and celebrated his birthday by tackling the Grouse Grind, the 2.9-kilometre trail up the face of Grouse Mountain on the north shore, commonly referred to as “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster.”
“I found it relatively easy,” Peirson says.
“You’re just putting one foot in front of the other and going uphill.”
It was the first time Peirson, a great-grandfather and widower, has tackled the climb.
Peirson and his 42-year-old granddaughter Natasha took two hours and 15 minutes to reach the summit in the rain.
He says he is “a little tired” but not especially achy.
“I did have a nap.”
After he was past the half-way mark, Peirson had to pause to field a phone call from a relative, calling to wish him happy birthday.
They were surprised to learn how he was celebrating.
“I didn’t tell my children,” he says.
Peirson insists he is not especially athletic, but he has had a physically active life.
“I was born and raised on a farm in Saskatchewan.”
Among other things, he has worked as a heavy equipment operator and a long-haul trucker, making his last run from Langley to Denver at the age of 87.
He doesn’t like staying still.
Most days, he gets out of his suite in the Harrison Pointe retirement community first thing in the morning.
“Everywhere I go, I walk” he says.
Paola Welti, the activity co-ordinator at Harrison, is not surprised by Peirson’s achievement.
“I didn’t think he’d have any trouble,” Welti says.
“My office is in the foyer where the stairs are and I watch him every day, flying up and down the stairs.”
Peirson started training for the Grind four-and-a half months ago by going to White Rock, where there is a steep set of steps, 232 of them, and go up and down.
“I did that 14 times in one day,” he says.
The preparations paid off.
“I have to admit that I enjoyed it,” Peirson says.
“I plan on doing it again.”
He thinks his time might have been a little better if he’d followed his granddaughter’s advice and stretched more.
When Peirson reached the top, he hugged his granddaughter and phoned his sister in Alberta so she could let the rest of family know he’d made it.
He returned to Harrison Pointe to find a Superman mug waiting for him, courtesy of the staff.
Peirson says one of the reasons he decided to tackle the mountain was to make a point about aging and trying new things.
“Never tell yourself you’re too old to do something.”
According to grousemountain.com, more than 150,000 people hike the trail every year.
On average it takes up to an hour and a half to complete the hike, with elite runners managing the course in a third of the time.
Hikers are as young as seven and as old as 90, with an equal male/female split.
The pathway was first developed in 1981 by mountaineers looking for a good workout by following well-worn animal paths up the mountainside.