Adventuring high above Toronto at the CN Tower EdgeWalk

by Christopher Heard
Christopher Heard at the CN Tower's EdgeWalk

A good friend of mine (Josh Stone from the Fairmont Royal York Health Club) was looking for something unique to give me for a birthday gift–what he came up with was unique all right, im fact it was uniquely unique! He treated me to walk around the outside of the roof of the CN Tower, an adventure known as the EdgeWalk.

For the longest time the CN Tower could sell itself to tourists and locals alike as a trip up the tallest man made free standing structure in the world–then of course we were usurped by that gargantuan monstrosity in Dubai (soon to be heavily featured in Mission Impossible 4)–this put the CN Tower in a difficult spot since it isn’t quite the same ad campaign when you are the second tallest building (although one of my favourite West Hollywood eateries, Barney’s Beanery, does boast the distinction of having the second best chili in the world) so they responded in a truly spectacular fashion by designing the Edge Walk–which allows adventure seekers to not just walk outside along the edge of the roof of the CN Tower but to actually hang out over the edge suspended by nothing more than a couple of cords slung over a guide bar.

For my walk along the edge of the CN Tower I chose the morning of August 8 as it was the date of the official release of my newest book (The Suite Life – The Magic and Mystery of Hotel Living) thus making it a kind of double celebration. The day before my EdgeWalk the weather forecasts for the event were bleak to say the least–they called for dark, gloomy skies and thunderstorms, but as usual the weatherman turned out to be one hundred percent wrong as I was greeted that morning with blue skies, sunshine and warm, pleasant temperatures. As I approached the CN Tower near to my appointed time the tower loomed larger and larger and my nervousness grew incrementally in kind; it was not an apprehensive nervousness, more an excitement to experience something that I could not even imagine realistically.

Once you get to what is called the EdgeWalk ‘base camp’ on the ground you are checked in, you sign your waivers then you are ushered into a dressing room for orientation, questions, and the removal of virtually everything on your person that might fall from you while you are up on the roof of the tower (watches, rings, wristbands, hair pins, everything). Adventurers are subject to breathalyzer tests to make sure you aren’t hammered, your person and belongings are swabbed for explosives residue and you are asked a series of questions that the attendants seem to use to gauge your level of nervousness and anxiety about the impending experience. Once everyone (groups of up to six plus one guide go out at a time) is cleared and good to go, you move to another area where you are suited up in a red jump suit and geared up with safety harnesses. The attention to detail and safety are suitably impressive as each person has their gear thoroughly checked, including making sure your shoes are tied tightly enough (if you aren’t wearing proper footwear you are provided with special rubber soled deck shoes). If you wish to purchase shoes for personal use which you can even use at places such as these then go through the shoe hungry website and read the various posts on their site to find the shoes of your choice. Once this process is completed, and your gear is checked yet again for the third time (this process takes about a half hour), you head single-file to the elevator for the ride up to the roof.

Once up top you are taken to the room where your safety harnesses (one in the front at chest-level, one behind your neck) are secured to the overhead bar. The latches and buckles on your harnesses are locked, then secured again with a rubber casing, then secured a third time with a safety tie. The main cord that is attached to your chest is tested to hold at least 15,000 pounds.

Once your gear is safety-checked another three times your guide gives you last minute instructions (no jumping or swinging, no touching other adventures, keep both feet on the grated walkway…) the glass doors open and you are lead out. That first step onto the meter or so wide steel grate is truly heart stopping–all of a sudden you are standing out on the edge of the roof of the CN Tower with nothing between you and the wild blue yonder (and the sea of very attractive glass and steel condo buildings) by a fairly thin cord attached to a bar above and behind you.

Adventurers step out facing south so the lakeshore is the first vista you see, then after a few minutes of acclimatization the guide (who is equipped with a helmet cam to record the event for everyone) then treats you to the first bit of daredevilry–you are asked to turn around and back your way to the edge of the grate – once your feet are literally half way over the edge you lower yourself to a sitting position then slowly stand up leaning backward out over the edge of the grate–once your rope locks off your guide utters the words – “now let go of the rope!”

Every bit of self preservation instinct within you screams out to hang on to that rope for dear life but then something else takes over–that sense of huge, overwhelming fun and excitement at actually doing something so utterly surreal–that you find yourself not just letting go of the rope, but spreading your arms out wide and looking down and a whole lot of nothing beneath you. Doing that gives you such a rush of exhilaration that instantly you want to stay our there for hours; you are no longer afraid or nervous–until of course you get to the next stunt.

When you move around to the east-facing angle–overlooking the downtown core–the next bit of business is to hang out over the edge again, only this time you are in a gut swirling facing forward position–you end up with your arms outstretched hanging over the edge of the CN Tower in a position that makes it look like you are frozen in time and space in mid-dive off the roof of tower.

The whole stroll around the edge of the roof of the tower lasts about forty minutes but it is a forty minutes that exists outside of normal interpretation of time. When I was lead back inside I wasn’t sure if I had been out there ten minutes or three hours.

EdgeWalk costs $175 and besides the fantastic experience you are also furnished with a souvenir certificate that declares you did the walk, a DVD of your walk on the edge (shot by your guide) and a couple of very cool 5X7 still photos taken of you hanging out over the edge with your arms outstretched. The whole experience takes about ninety minutes.

The CN Tower EdgeWalk has instantly taken its place atop the list of most fantastic, unique things to do in this city and the experience is equally amazing be you a local who has lived in the shadow of the CN Tower your whole life or a tourist looking for an indelible memory of your trip to Toronto. It is an activity I highly recommend.

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