To Whom It May Concern:

If you’re reading this letter, chances are high that I have plummeted to my death. This letter is for crime scene investigators to identify my blob of red goo on the sidewalk.

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I am not one of the confident adventurers in this publicity photo

What’s the EdgeWalk and why am I doing it?

Billed as “Toronto’s newest, tallest extreme urban adventure,” CN Tower’s EdgeWalk opened last year and quickly became a huge draw for Toronto tourism. They say it’s incredibly breathtaking, life-changing, and impeccably safe. But so is my favourite sport: Couch Napping with my dog as a pillow.

An old friend dared me to try the EdgeWalk. Basically you pay $175 for the opportunity to walk on a steel grate catwalk that circles the tower, 356 meters (1,168 feet) up in the sky. If you live, you get a souvenir video, photos, and a ‘certificate of achievement’ you can staple to your résumé.

Now, my friend loves to torture me. He knows that, as a tall man, I’m freaked by heights since there’s further for me to fall. So the last thing I want to do is walk 150 metres around a 356-meter catwalk for half an hour with no safety net.

Unfortunately, when a lifelong childhood friend dares you to do anything, you’re contractually obligated to man up and take the dare.

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Des and Gemma lead a hesitant Hegan to the edge of the catwalk

 

What’s the CN Tower? Here’s a quick primer for out-of-towners:

The CN Tower is named after a railway that used to be popular and it is the Toronto landmark. Located by the heart of Toronto’s financial and entertainment districts, it’s close to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Union Station, the Air Canada Centre arena where the Maple Leafs lose at hockey, and right next door to Rogers Centre stadium where the Blue Jays lose at baseball.

Here’s how the EdgeWalk works:

1) First you change into bright red jumpsuits so you look like you change tires for a NASCAR pit crew. Then the Tower staff wands you with a metal detector, and pats you down repeatedly to make sure you didn’t conceal any knifes, grenades, shotguns, anchors, anvils, or other people-crushing objects.

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2) You have to be at least 13 years old (there’s no maximum age), weigh more than 75 lbs, and less than 310 lbs. They won’t let you do the EdgeWalk if you’re pregnant, have broken bones, had surgery or a seizure in the last 6 months, are suffering chest pain or shortness of breath, or (and this is a shame) if you’re drunk or high.

3) When the staff’s convinced you’re weapons-free and sober, you ride the elevator to the roof of the restaurant. I was joined by four brave souls: a German couple, Birgit and Guenther, a local electrician named Des, and his daughter Gemma. She came to support his crazy birthday wish to walk around a narrow catwalk that’s 3 & 1/2 football fields above the harsh, unforgiving pavement below.

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4) You might be asking, ‘What’s the lowest height you can die from?’ According to the Internet, some anonymous guy claims that “50% of all falls that are from three times your height are fatal. In other words, a six foot individual will die 50% of the time from an 18 foot fall” [like from an 18-foot ladder].

The CN Tower’s EdgeWalk is 64.9 times as high as that 18-foot fall. If my math is correct, this means I will die 32.45 times harder than falling from a tall ladder.

6) The elevator opens 116 stories above ground. Your pit crew walks along a metal grate to an open-air pen. Here you’re given a comforting safety talk, i.e. your tour guide jokingly claims they’ve “barely had any fatalities” since they opened last year. The truth: nobody has died. Yet.

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Hegan in the middle of his fearless EdgeWalking crew

7) Time to meet your new best friends: the cables that lock you to the tower. Your tour guide grabs your chest harness, and clamps it to two cables hanging from overhead tracks that encircle the tower. When you walk out on the open-air catwalk, your cables glide inside this track. You’ll need these cables when your tour guide – and I’m not making this up – tells you to stand on the edge of the catwalk and then lean forward, face down, over the city below.

8) My hands are sweating like a fiend. Because it’s time to grab the cable and trudge out to the deck. Oh, and there’s no handrail out there. Just a see-through catwalk to stand on that’s just 1.5-metres wide. Worse, it’s a beautiful sunny day with only a light breeze, so the walk won’t be cancelled due to electrical storms or high winds. Damn. There’s no turning back. It’s time for us to walk the edge.

9) Birthday boy Des goes first. He smiles, grabs his cable and walks out to the deck. His daughter quickly follows. Now it’s my turn. My heart’s pounding like a broken clock. I make a silent, fearful, last minute atheist prayer. Up in the blue mid-day sky, a vulture winks at me.

I suck a deep breath and grab my sweat-slick cable. Then I stagger forward into the light. Suddenly …

EDITORS’ NOTE:

Ken’s letter ended there. Until the investigation is complete, we don’t know what happened next. His body has not been found.

All we have for evidence:

Exhibit A:

This photo of Ken giving a tense ‘thumbs up’ as he leaned off the Tower deck.

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The last known photo of Ken Hegan

Exhibit B:

This VIDEO of Ken’s nervous behaviour during the EdgeWalk experience. We urge you to study it for clues to his survival or remains. If you have any information that can help investigators, please contact local authorities.

Hegan in video

— Ken Hegan

Read all Ken’s travel stories here and follow him on Twitter: @KenHegan

For more info, visit edgewalkcntower.ca

Ken’s tour was graciously hosted by the daredevils at Ontario Tourism and Tourism Toronto 

Images courtesy CN Tower’s EdgeWalk

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