The world’s greatest Stairmaster

The many ways, means and reasons to head for the hill

What’s green and grey and can be seen from all over St. John’s? 

Signal Hill, the world’s greatest Stairmaster. It dominates our view, our collective psyche, and our recreation. Its rugged slopes lift Cabot Tower to a perch of quiet splendour above the city, except when it is windy, which is practically all the time. The relentless wind whistles and cuts with a ragged energy that begs to be harnessed, or at least tolerated.

Today I completed my 504th ascent of Signal Hill. Our most famous hill is the focal point for most of the training I do for climbs. I have hiked its numerous trails, dragged a tire up the main road, climbed the stairs on the North Head Trail more often than not and reveled in getting to know “The Hill” intimately.

I’ve even been out on top at the Ladies Look-out in January in 80 km/h gusts looking to exploit the -27 C wind chill to test the performance of my down climbing suit. “Winter, spring, summer or fall, all the hill has to do is call, and I’ll be there. Yes I will.”

A Mecca for outdoor recreation in this city

Out there today, I couldn’t help but think, “This place is a Mecca for outdoor recreation in this city.” As winter is threatening to finally relent and give way to spring, people are migrating back in droves to the slopes of our city’s highest perch.

I witnessed the first few tentative bicycle ascents where legs, kept from peddling by icy winter roads, struggled to remember how to generate the power to send their riders upward. Families, with babies bundled into strollers, were wheeling their way to the top.  Runners were doing tough hill work to hone winter training efforts into a hard edge for the first race of the season.

Snowshoers laid tracks in last few bastions of icy white. Like the pelagic birds, the citizens were returning to their recreation colony for another season of communal exploration.

Reasons to hit the hill

Why do I call Signal Hill the world’s greatest Stairmaster?

No. 1: It’s free. It costs nothing to participate on the hill and it’s open 24 hours per day.

No. 2: A recent meta-analysis of exercise studies concluded that exercising outdoors is not only more effective and efficient than exercising indoors, it’s much more fun and better for our mental state.

No. 3: If you get there early, you get to see the sun rise like a huge fiery orb out of the ocean, bringing the first light to the North American day.

No. 4:  You get very cool bragging rights around the office.

No. 5: If you get there late, you see the light drain from the sky and store itself for the night in thousands of small containers about town.

Finally, and best of all, you can choose a different way up and different method of getting up it every day of the week – the only limiting factor is your imagination. Meet you out there this week!

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