What does it feel like to be suspended a quarter of mile above a busy city on one of the seven modern wonders of the world? George Burden circumambulates the CN Tower.
I’m leaning over the edge of the tallest free-standing structure in the Western Hemisphere. Nothing but air separates me from an almost quarter-mile drop to the ground below. It’s a clear day and I watch a Dash-8 aircraft cruising below me as it approaches a nearby airport. People look like ants and the railroad round-house and its panoply of trains is a child’s toy train set.
If you guessed that I was atop the CN Tower in Toronto, you’d be right on. At 1815.4 feet high, over a third of a mile high, it remained the world’s tallest free-standing structure until last year. In 1995 the structure was declared one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Engineers. Indeed, it made me “wonder” if I was in my right mind, leaning at a 45 degree angle over its edge. Sure, I was hooked up to not one but two cords capable of holding many times my weight. Nevertheless, something about the human psyche says it’s just wrong to venture so close to a precipice of this magnitude.
Accompanying me on this excursion are Brian, our intrepid guide, as well as Rachel and Karen, two University of Toronto students, and Dorothy, an 83-year-old granny and her grandson Bryson. We circumambulate the tower, peering down at the ant people. First stop is Base Camp where we are briefed, divested of jewelry and other such nick-knacks and then dressed in jump suits and harnesses. We are checked for metal, explosives and other hazardous materials before being cleared for ascent. Afterwards we ascend via high speed elevator to the catwalk surrounding the tower. We are checked and triple-checked before being allowed out to sample a the fresh air, albeit a little rarefied.
Slowly, we navigate around the tower, every once in a while waving at the cameras where envious – or incredulous – Sky Pod visitors peer at our efforts. The Bay Street financial district sprawls just to the east and we look way down at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, ironically once the tallest structure in the British Commonwealth. Lake Ontario stretches off to the south, punctuated by the Toronto Islands and their airport.
Brian puts us through our paces, which include leaning backwards and forwards over the tower’s edge. We look upward and walk forward and backwards. We pose for photos and finally with a sigh of relief – or regret – terminate our half hour journey by re-entering the tower.
Dorothy, our 83 year old, seems to have weathered the trip admirably. “Let me know when you’re doing bungee jumps off the tower,” she jokes amiably. Others don’t look quite as chipper.
We unharness a half hour later and take a high-speed elevator back to base camp, stripping off our jump suits on arrival. Our $175 ticket includes a video and still photos of our adventure as well as re-admission to the tower via a priority line and admission to all the other attractions the CN Tower has to offer. Believe me, it’s worth the price of admission…and bragging rights backed by a photo like the one of me accompanying this article.
Go on, live on the edge a little. So what if your friends doubt your sanity?
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All photos courtesy of George Burden
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