On the Edgewalk of Toronto
When Daniel first showed me the pictures of people in silly, orange jumpsuits lounging precariously on the side of a building, I thought "that doesn't look so bad." The CN Tower in Toronto, Canada offers a thrilling opportunity with the Edgewalk: you can visit their iconic tower (the tallest structure in the Western Hemisphere), get strapped into their equipment and complete what their Guinness World Record Title calls ‘the world's highest external walk on a building.'
Each day leading up to the trip, Daniel would bring up our Edgewalk intentions - he was nervous! It was his idea, but even he himself would admit that it was outside his comfort zone. "That's why I have to do it!" he said. It was only after the Toronto skyline rose slowly over the horizon that I felt that pang in my stomach - we were still an hour away and I could already see the CN Tower. Because it was really tall.
The weather was unpredictable throughout our entire time in Toronto, so Daniel and I were sort of spontaneous about when we would book the Edgewalk. We spent our first day downtown waiting for the moment when the sun peaked through the angry clouds. That’s when we ran to the front desk and asked to sign the infamous "I'm doing something stupid" waiver that would get us to the top.
Their staff was fantastic - encouraging and excited, and definitely exuding the "daredevil" vibe. The girl who sold us our tickets told us that she had done the Edgewalk 12 times. They cracked jokes ("if he starts to fall, just make sure you grab the key around his neck first - that way you can get your wallet and keys back after we get you down"), but they also took their job very seriously. To get suited up, they lead you into "Basecamp" - a room of multiple employees who fit you with a jumpsuit - or a “walk suit,” as they would correct us - a windbreaker, adequate shoes and the life-saving harness. They make you take a breathalyzer test (no one wants a drunk Edgewalker) and remove anything that could get loose from your body - jewelry, bobbie pins, etc. Even glasses have to be clipped to your suit with their ever-so-stylish Edgewalk lanyard. Your possessions are placed in a locker and the key to that locker is strapped under your walk suit.
Daniel and I were in a group with one other traveler, Leah, a Scottish thrill seeker who was going at it alone because she couldn't convince the family she was visiting in Canada to join her. "I've had this ticket booked for three months," she told us. "I can't wait to get to the 'hanging over the edge' part!"
Our Team Leader's name was Justin; and I owe all of my Edgewalk accomplishments to Justin. He was attentive, social, and knew just how to treat each individual Edgewalker. You see, from the moment I had seen the CN Tower to the moment I got suited up - I was nervous. I'm a daredevil, I love adrenaline; but I don't do enough stunts to make it ‘normal’ - I still get nervous. And I was nervous.
The harnesses were checked by Justin and two other employees, two times each. Justin decided we were ready and led us across the hall from 'Basecamp' to the elevator. The front desk staff and a set of strangers who had observed our "suiting up" clapped and cheered for us until the doors closed. Up we went - no turning back.
The most exciting moment came when we had ridden the glass elevator 116 stories up and had come to a little office on the top of the tower, complete with video monitors that showcased the entire path. This is where we met our Walk Master, Steve. Steve’s job was to watch cameras, the weather and the wind patterns - and probably so many other details that I can't even think of - and transfer that data to a walkie in Justin's ear in order to keep us safe.
Justin and Steve had us stand in a line while they hooked us into the rail system that would keep us attached to the building. They both completed a final series of equipment checks. "Give me one second," Justin said to us, then the sliding doors flew open and he stepped outside. All I could hear was wind and all I could see was the sky. "Oh yup!" Justin yelled back over his shoulder, "that's high!"
One by one, holding onto our ropes like they were our only life line (which, come to think of it, they were) we stepped out of the Walk Master's den and onto the Edgewalk. The 5 foot metal mesh floor was the only thing between us and 116 stories of nothingness. The world seemed so impossibly small - when you have to look down to see the top of buildings in a city as big as Toronto, you know you’re on the top of the world.
Of course the first thing I thought about was slipping out of my harness and stumbling over the edge in one impossible motion. But Justin broke us in to the Edgewalk immediately with his first activity ‘Toes Over Toronto.’ You had to walk up to the very edge of the wire-mesh flooring so that your toes were hanging over the side, then look down. Out of all the activities we did that day, this one was the scariest; perhaps because it was the first activity, or because we still hadn’t felt the support of the harness holding us. But when it was my turn to put my ‘toes over Toronto,’ I was hanging onto my rope for dear life. “Don’t look down,” Justin told me as he hung over the edge so that his action camera could get the best angle, “that would be crazy.”
Our time at the top was a mixture of various activities and stunts, but also the coolest tour we had ever had as Justin pointed out different buildings and locations in Toronto underneath us. He gave us time to ask questions about the city and take in the sights. Then when it came to the stunts, he had us sit into our harnesses and slowly back up so that our bodies were hovering the 1,168 feet above the ground, and only the tip of our toes were on the floor. Then he had us do it again, but this time facing forward - we leaned into our ropes and over the entirety of the city.
We spent about 30 minutes on the Edgewalk, and I was thankful for that time, because I was able to get over my nerves and take it all in. It was thrilling - we could see upwards of six separate storm clouds pouring rain across the horizon. We were standing outside, above them. There was an area on Lake Ontario where the sun broke brilliantly through the clouds and streamed down onto the surface like a heavenly being. The wind - unnerving at first - made me feel like I was flying. There was a moment when I was hanging over the edge with only my toes touching the wire floor, and the rest of my body was suspended 116 stories above the city; I heard only the roar of the wind, and I closed my eyes and smiled - I knew that this was the moment of my Edgewalk that I would always remember.
A few notes:
We recommend the Edgewalk. It’s a great introduction into things like bungee jumping and skydiving (yes, that’s next!) and it’s well worth the price. Just think of it this way - that money goes into keeping you safe; I’m sure their equipment is expensive to purchase and maintain. Plus, with a half-hour spent on the top of the building, it’s an experience that lasts longer than bungee jumping or zip lining. At the end, you are given a certificate of accomplishment, two printed photos and video footage of your experience. You're also granted free re-admission to the tower's observation deck and "SkyPod" - although we must admit, they're pretty boring after completing such a stunt. The only added cost (c’mon there’s always an added cost) is if you want all of the photos taken during your time up there - you can purchase a burned disc for $20 or a USB drive for $25 that have all of the photos taken during your session. Edgewalk is open seasonally from April through November. Start planning your trip to Toronto to walk on the edge.
The video footage unfortunately only captures your first 3 stunts (‘toes over toronto,’ the backing up and onto the edge, and then the leaning forward) - you do these multiple times throughout the rest of the experience, but they aren’t filmed. At least they weren’t during our experience; we aren’t sure if this is typical protocol, or only because of the wind that got a little too fierce during the last half of our Edgewalk. I’m a little sad about this because I’ll admit I look like a bit of a scardy cat - I worked up my confidence throughout the rest of my time of the Edgewalk, but the footage only captures my first few (terrified) moments. Keep this in mind - if you want good footage, swallow your nerves sooner than I did.