Our (truly) fearless correspondent offers his first-person account of dangling high above the city on the CN Tower’s Edge Walk.
I was one of the last people to preview the CN Tower’s Edge Walk Friday (it opened to the public this week) and by then there were already YouTube clips and first person write-ups (guess how often the phrase “living on the edge” was used) about the 150m-long walk that takes place on the outside of the tower, 356m above the city.
From what I had read, it would seem like the experience is comparable to the Apollo mission or scaling Mount Everest. (Edge Walk’s reception area on the ground floor is even called “base camp.”) A tad hyperbolic, but dangling off a ledge on one of the world’s tallest structures is surely more exhilarating than making snow angels on the tower’s glass floors. (Remember when that was considered extreme?)
After signing the release form (not pregnant, didn’t recently have surgery, etc.), myself and five other members of the media were ushered into a glass-walled room beside the ticket counter where onlookers watched us take a Breathalyzer test, empty our pockets and get scanned with a metal detector before putting on red-orange jumpsuits. (It’s less prison-y than it sounds.) Rest assured, it won’t be raining cameras and coins on Front Street as we’re told to leave all our belongings in lockers. Gum had to be spit out and even my friendship bracelet had to be wrapped in tape so it wouldn’t get caught in anything. The only items allowed are eye- and sunglasses, which are attached to lanyards the guide provided.
Speaking of, our guide Chris (nickname: Moose) used to work in the kitchens of the tower’s 360 restaurant. When the opportunity to operate the Edge Walk came up, he and other employees from various departments of the tower signed up to train for months with the people at New Zealand’s Sky Tower, the 192-metre high attraction Edge Walk was modeled after. After Moose and two other staffers quadruple-checked our crotch-hugging harnesses, we were led to the elevators that took us to the platform, located above the restaurant (351m) and below the Sky Pod (447m). (The photos accompanying this article are screen captures from the video shot by Moose’s helmet cam.) Our harnesses were then double-checked one last time.
When the doors opened, we walked out single file while tethered to an overhead track. (Again, it’s less prison-y than it sounds.) The skies were clear, and a warm breeze makes staring down over Union Station more relaxing than scary—especially for those who have a Messiah Complex. The Moose leaned with his back against the Toronto cityscape until his body was on a 45-degree slant over the ledge. He instructed us to do the same thing with as much enthusiasm as a motivational speaker.
As a 24-year-old male who has yet to establish a concept of death (and it’s not like the CN Tower has the same safety standards as a sketchy traveling carnival), I eagerly shuffled backwards on the 1.5m-wide platform until the only part of my body that was on top of the ledge were my toes. Leaning back with my arms open, I could see the silhouettes of people above me in the Sky Pod observation deck. I waved. They waved back. A camera flash went off a hundred metres above me. It felt like I was on the world’s tallest hammock as I swayed peacefully above a city getting ready for the long weekend.
The next challenge was what Moose called the Titanic pose: lean face-forward out to the city, specifically the Rogers Centre, which opened its roof just as we were looking over it. It’s a more daunting task, but the two ropes attached to the harness ensured the lean would not turn into a fall. Once I realized that, I was going all “I’m King of the World!” every three steps. Moose told me that, a few days previous, he was doing the walk during a Jays game and couldn’t believe how clear he could hear the crowds. Unfortunately, the scoreboards cannot be seen from this angle. I could however, see that the traffic home on Bathurst was going to be a nightmare.
Before going back into the tower, Moose took out a camera to take photos of us for our souvenir package. For $175, visitors get one individual photo, one group shot, a certificate and a DVD of the experience shot from the guide’s helmet cam, as well as access to the rest of the tower.
Edge Walk isn’t exactly dangerous or death-defying. Participants can be as young as 13 and the attraction is closed when there’s a thunderstorm or high winds. It also runs until the end of October, when the weather starts to get bad (or good, depending on how much of a thrill-seeker you are). However it’s a fun, half-hour romp with magnificent views of the city not obstructed by a thick layer of glass. I expect many workplace team-building exercises to take place here in the following weeks to come.