20 Things You Need to Know Before Climbing Toronto's CN Tower

20-Things-You-Need-to-Know-Before-Climbing-Torontos-CN-Tower

Advice and Hacks for the CN Tower Climb, Toronto Canada

Climbing Toronto's CN Tower: Answers to All Your Questions

Our list of 20 things you need to know before climbing Toronto's CN Tower in Ontario Canada will help you reach the top, whether you're an experienced athlete or a first-time climber. Millions of tourists have been flocking to the CN Tower, which is an iconic landmark that dominates the city skyline in Toronto, Ontario, Canada since 1976. Visitors can enjoy spectacular bird's eye views of Lake Ontario, Toronto Island, and the Rogers Center, or test their bravery during the adrenaline producing EdgeWalk experience. Most are whisked to the observation deck inside a glass elevator. At 553 m (1,815 ft), the CN Tower is the tallest freestanding structure in the Western Hemisphere. Furthermore, in 1995 it was declared to be one of the modern seven Wonders of the World by the Society of American Engineers. Incredibly, it houses the world's tallest metal staircase, which has a whopping 1,776 steps. Do you have what it takes to do Toronto's CN Tower climb?
Things You Need To Know before Climbing Toronto's CN Tower. Photo credit Sean Morton.

Here are 20 things you need to know before climbing Toronto's CN Tower.

The CN Tower is open to visitors all year, but the unique experience of climbing it on foot only comes around twice annually. Specifically, the inner staircase of the CN Tower is opened to climbers for the World Wildlife Fund's Climb for Nature in spring and for the United Way's ClimbUP event in fall. During these two organized charity fundraising events, individuals and teams can register to raise money for two great causes by climbing the CN Tower in Toronto, Ontario. Each year tens of thousands of participants raise millions of dollars for these two great charities. Whether you are stepping up for nature, giving back to your community, or simply looking for a great cardiovascular exercise to burn some extra calories and sculpt those calves, our advice for climbing Toronto's CN Tower will help make your experience as smooth and fun as possible.
World Wildlife Fund's CN Tower Climb for Nature each spring
United Way's ClimbUp event happens every fall

What happens on the event day?

For both charity events, all participants must register online in advance of event day and pay a participation fee. Then, on the day of the CN Tower Climb, you will arrive at your designated start time in the Metro Toronto Convention Center, which is just sets away from Toronto's Waterfront Trail, one of the best trails in Ontario.  At the Convention Center, you will check in, pick up your wrist band, and deposit any personal items at the coat-check.  Next, you will then be directed to the base of the tower by event volunteers. Finally, when it is time to go, your wrist band will be scanned at the bottom of the steps to start the timer, and away you go! Sounds simple, right? It is. However, if you're a first-time climber with some additional questions, here is our list of 20 things you should know before climbing Canada's CN Tower.
Would you climb 1,776 steps to the top of the CN Tower? Photo credit Sean Morton.

Tips, Tricks, Advice, and Hacks for Climbing Toronto's CN Tower

Below you will learn 20 things you need to know before climbing Toronto's CN Tower.  The list will answer questions you might have have about things to know before setting out, what happens during the event, and to what to expect when you reach the top while successfully climbing Toronto's CN Tower.

1. Would I be welcome at this event? Both charity events are open to everyone over the age of twelve, and participants come from a wide range of age groups, cultural backgrounds, orientations, and fitness levels. In my experience, during the climbs there is a very positive, inclusive, and encouraging vibe. The stairs are well lit, and there are plenty of volunteers on hand to ensure the tower is a safe space for everyone. The oldest person to complete the climb was 92 years old, so if you think you've got what it takes, you're more than welcome to step up!

2. Do I need to train? While the CN Tower Climb can be completed by participants with a wide range of fitness levels, a little cardiovascular training always helps. For example, walking around the neighborhood, practicing on an outdoor staircase, or using the stairwell in your condo tower or office building are great ways to prepare. In addition, you can also participate in other events, like the Bruce Trail's 'Steeltown Stomp' hike which involves climbing up and down approximately 2,000 steps on the Niagara Escarpment, as well as hiking over 23 km in the Iroquoia section of the Bruce Trail. Moreover, training not only strengthens your muscles and cardiovascular system, it also helps you break in or test out your footwear, make any necessary wardrobe adjustments, and perfect your stair climbing technique.

Pro Tip: Remember to train for endurance not necessarily speed. No matter where you train, if you do 1,1776 steps, your practice time will be longer than on the event day, because you'll have to go climb back down as well as up.

3. What should I wear? As the saying goes, dress for success, and this certainly applies to the CN Tower climb. Remember, this is an athletic event, not a night out clubbing. Therefore, wearing the correct footwear like runners or trainers with good grip is essential. No flip-flops or heavy leather hiking boots! In general, comfortable socks with good padding, stretchy leggings or loose fitting pants/shorts that allow a range of motion, and a light weight shirt are ideal. Climbing is hard work, and you will soon heat up. As a result, many climbers wear moisture wicking athletic fabrics or merino wool, but go with what works best for you.

Pro Tip: Some climbers who use the handrails choose to wear rubber-grip gloves to protect their hands, keep them clean, and increase their leverage.

4. Should I eat before the CN Tower climb? Start times for the climb range from around 5:30 am to 10:00 am, so chances are, you'll be up early for the event. Therefore, having a high energy meal or snack beforehand is good idea. Not surprisingly, climbing 1,776 stairs and 144 floors takes a lot of energy. So, either have a high energy breakfast (i.e., oatmeal and berries) before you leave home, or eat a few high calorie snacks (i.e., Cliff Bar) before beginning. You are not allowed to carry anything once you are in the stair well, so charge your batteries before starting.

5. What can I carry with me? On event day, you won't be allowed to carry anything with you except keys and photo ID. The climb is entirely hands free – no water bottles, no snacks, no hats, and no cell phones. That's right - no cell no phones! There are no exceptions to this rule, and you will not be allowed to start your climb if you are carrying anything extra. Therefore, make sure to leave your valuables at home or locked in the trunk of your car. Fortunately, for everything else there is a terrific coat-check system, which is monitored by volunteers. As a result, you can drop off bags, coats, and sweaters, get a receipt, and pick them up again after the event. While there are no guarantees, the coat check is well monitored and efficiently managed by volunteers.

Pro Tip: Don't wear anything of metal as it can lead to delays on the way into the CN Tower. You have to pass through metal detectors and security en route.

The CN Tower is an iconic landmark on Toronto's skyline. 

6. Any last steps before heading to the tower? Climbing stairs and working out makes you sweat, and conquering 1,776 steps makes you sweat a lot. Since no one is allowed to carry a water bottle (or anything else!) while climbing, it is a good idea to hydrate with electrolytes (i.e., Nuun Hydration tablets or a sports drink) before starting. But remember, what goes in must come out, so it is also a good idea to use the washrooms located in the Metro Toronto Convention Center before heading over to the tower. Don't worry, when you reach the top, you'll be greeted by a group of volunteers with free bottles of water to quench your thirst.

Pro Tip: Hydration is essential but also remember that once you begin you won't have access to washroom for 1,776 stairs.

7. How long does it take? For most climbers, the CN Tower Climb is an endurance test and not a race. As of 2023, the all-time record for the fastest time to climb the CN tower is 7:52, set in 1989 by Brendan Keenoy. However, most people complete it between 30 and 45 minutes. Sadly, I am not a runner and not very athletic, but without extensive training I easily managed to complete it in 24 minutes. Next year I will try to do better!

Pro Tip: Slow and steady gets the job done. It is tempting to hit the stairs at a fast jog, but unless you are a professional tower climber, this means you will burn out early need more breaks higher up. I ended up overtaking a lot of the people who passed me early on, simply by keeping a steady but moderate pace from beginning to end.

8. What are the stairs like? From the moment you "scan in" with your wrist-band at the bottom of the tower to the time you "scan out" at the top to record your time, you cover a fair distance. Specifically, the CN tower climb goes up 1,776 stairs over 144 floors. Each floor has 12 steps, and each flight of steps is numbered, so you can track your upwards progress (for better or worse). In addition, there are landings every 12 steps. Luckily, the steps aren't too steep, and they have a nice depth to them which helps.

9. What if I need to take a break? Anyone who has done the CN Tower climb will admit that 1,776 stairs is a long way. Don't worry, you don't need to do it all in one go! Fortunately, the landings that occur after every 12 stairs have enough space for you to stop, stand against the wall, catch your breath, and let others pass. In fact, you won't be alone. Lots of people take regular breaks every 10, 20, or 50 flights.

10. What if I'm too slow? Don't worry - you can pick your own pace. It isn't a race unless you want it to be. In fact, slower climbers are encouraged to stay on the righthand side of the stairs, which leaves plenty of room for faster climbers to pass on the left. Some people will try to beat their previous best times. However, others look at the climb as a fun activity and a way to give back to nature or their community. As a result, there are plenty of climbers who take it slow and steady, and there is absolutely no need to keep up with others, or feel like you need to run. The key is to pick a pace that suits YOU and that YOU are comfortable with.

Climb the CN Tower for charity and recieve a t-shirt with your time

11. What if I want to race? If you are going to run or compete for a time record, the best advice is to register online. Both events have a separate process for elite climbers looking to set records. If you just want to push hard for a personal best, go early. The temperatures inside the CN Tower are cooler in the mornings, and there are usually fewer competitors in the early hours. As a result, the combination of cooler temperatures and fewer people makes it easier to make a straight run or pass others.

12. What if I can't make it to the top? There is help on the way up. If you've never climbed the tower before, you might be having visions of getting halfway up and being unable to continue. However, when we did the climb there were volunteers and paramedics stationed on the landings, about 10-12 floors apart all the way up the tower. Luckily, they are there to encourage those who are nervous or tired, aid those who need help, suggest when you need a break, and cheer you on. The paramedics during these events are awesome!

13. What if I'm scared of heights? The stairwell of the CN Tower is in the middle of the building. As a result, there are no windows in the stairwell. Consequently, there are neither scenic views to distract you, nor any terrifying heights to detract from the experience or give you vertigo. Luckily, the stairwell is very lit. Until you feel your ears pop near the top, your only indication of how far you've climbed are the floor numbers on the landings.


14. Is is the stairwell crowded? If you're having visions of being trampled by thousands of climbers vying for position as they stampede up the stairs, don't worry. Climbers start at specific, staggered, times and the groups are relatively small. Specifically, they have either pre-registered for a specific time slot, or they are grouped with others after checking in. As a result, when you do start climbing it is only you and 10-15 others, and everyone will quickly spread out. Therefore, you will have lots of space and the opportunity to settle into your pace and rhythm early on.

15. It is fun? Yes! The energy of other climbers and the volunteers is amazing! In my experience, everyone who participates in these events is incredibly supportive, and their words of encouragement are incredible morale boosters. During the climb, the rhythm and energy of other climbers can actually help you set a steady pace and motivate you to keep going. The enthusiasm and encouragement en route is awesome! Nothing charges the system like someone smiling, giving you a thumbs up and saying "almost there!" When you climb the CN Tower, the stairwell is full of all kinds of cool people!

CN Tower Climb Selfie. 
We made it to the top of the CN Tower!! Photo credit Sonya Richmond.

16. Can I get a selfie? Since you are not allowed to carry a cell phone or a camera during the climb, you might be wondering how you'll be able to capture your stunning finish or share your epic acheivement. Luckily, event staff set up cameras near the top of the stairwell to record your climb in all its sweaty glory. As a result, photos of each climber will be made available through a shared Flickr account and emailed out. Voila, you can share your acheivement with the world in a professional selfie!

17. Are we there yet? As you near the top of the tower you will hear cheering up ahead. You will begin to see kids artwork on the tower walls. Finally, you will swipe your wrist-band and pass a clock recording your time, you will see signs for the end, and you will hear the camera click. Overjoyed, you think ... I've made it! And then, and then ... you will realize that there are still more stairs. In fact, there are about 6 more flights of stairs. Maybe you will understandably see this as a nightmarish punishment. Perhaps you will experience it as comic relief at the end. Either way, the fact is that even after "finishing" there are still a few small sets of steps before you finally make your triumphant entrance into the skypod observation deck.

18. What happens at the top? When you finally complete the climb, you arrive at the skypod observation deck of Toronto's CN Tower. There are fans to cool you down, free bottles of cold water to quench your thirst, crowds of volunteers to cheer you on and take your photo, opportunities to meet with event cooridnators, mascots, and family members (if they have tickets), and panoramic views to be enjoyed. In addition, there are a couple seats if you need a rest, public washrooms, and even a few paramedics if you're worse for wear.

19. Do I have to walk back down? The only thing more challenging than climbing 1,776 stairs would be to have to walk back down again afterwards. Thankfully, with rubbery legs, flagging energy, and the adrenaline beginning to subside you can take the elevator back down to the ground.

20. What's next? The post-climb experience is amazing! Once you've climbed to the top of the CN Tower and taken the elevator back down you'd think everything was done. But what comes next is a lot of fun. Back at the staging area in the Metro Toronto Convention Center you are given a T-Shirt with your time recorded on it, you can have your photograph taken, and you can celebrate with other climbers. Later, when you are outside on the streets of Toronto, you'll connect with other people who are wearing their World Wildlifd Fund or United Way event t-shirts, and you'll receive smiles and friendly waves from other pedestrians. Climbing the CN Tower is kind of like hiking the Camino de Santiago – each person walks the 1,776 stairs for themselves, but the entire experience is a community effort.

Conquering Toronto's CN Tower

In conclusion, conquering the CN Tower on foot is a lot of fun! Our list of 20 things you should know before climbing the CN Tower might sound like a lot to remember. However, the charity climb events are run like clockwork and participating in them is a truly amazing experience. If you aren't able to participate as climber, or if it simply isn't your thing, you can also consider supporting these events as a donor or a volunteer. Always remember, everything big is achieved one step at a time – go for it!

20 Things You Need to Know Before Climbing Toronto's CN Tower

Tips, Tricks, and Hacks for the CN Tower Climb in Toronto Canada

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Comments 11

Andrea Horning on Saturday, 23 September 2023 23:30

Awesome information for someone thinking about doing this event. And 24 minutes, that is impressive! Well done!

Awesome information for someone thinking about doing this event. And 24 minutes, that is impressive! Well done!
EH Canada Marketing Group on Sunday, 24 September 2023 17:56

The photos of you two at the end looks exhausting. LOL.

The photos of you two at the end looks exhausting. LOL.
Amy Rezek on Sunday, 24 September 2023 18:02

Impressive work! and great information for those who are thinking about doing these events. Thanks for sharing with us.

Impressive work! and great information for those who are thinking about doing these events. Thanks for sharing with us.
Janel Coe on Sunday, 24 September 2023 21:11

Great article Sonya, and lots of helpful info. Congrats on the climb!

Great article Sonya, and lots of helpful info. Congrats on the climb!
Sonya Richmond on Sunday, 24 September 2023 22:38

EH Canada Marketing Group It was pretty tiring, but not as tough as we anticipated. We hope to improve on our previous time when we do our next climb. Looking forward to it!

EH Canada Marketing Group It was pretty tiring, but not as tough as we anticipated. We hope to improve on our previous time when we do our next climb. Looking forward to it!
Sonya Richmond on Sunday, 24 September 2023 22:39

Amy Rezek It was a really fun event. Hopefully this info will help encourage other to give it a try!

Amy Rezek It was a really fun event. Hopefully this info will help encourage other to give it a try!
Sonya Richmond on Sunday, 24 September 2023 22:42

Janel Coe Thank you! We really enjoyed doing the climb, and it was for a good cause.

Janel Coe Thank you! We really enjoyed doing the climb, and it was for a good cause.
Diana Mohrsen on Tuesday, 26 September 2023 01:23

Congratulations to the both of you! I laughed out loud when you said you were not a runner or athletic. If walking across Canada does not qualify as being athletic, don't know what does. Great job!

Congratulations to the both of you! I laughed out loud when you said you were not a runner or athletic. If walking across Canada does not qualify as being athletic, don't know what does. Great job!
Sonya Richmond on Sunday, 01 October 2023 01:40

Haha! Thank you. This event was in spring, so we approached it as complete couch potatoes who had spent four months working at desks. It really wasn't too bad though, and we're looking forward to the next one!

Haha! Thank you. This event was in spring, so we approached it as complete couch potatoes who had spent four months working at desks. It really wasn't too bad though, and we're looking forward to the next one!
Cora Lee Rennie on Sunday, 01 October 2023 01:58

You guys are awesome! Congratulations on such a great achievement for a great cause! Great article and thank you for sharing!

You guys are awesome! Congratulations on such a great achievement for a great cause! Great article and thank you for sharing!
Janet Guthrie on Sunday, 01 October 2023 03:00

Oh wow, congratulations! 24 minutes sounds like an amazing time. I have heard of the charity climbs but really didn't know much about them. Your article was very informative and makes me feel prepared....other than my ability to climb 1,776 stairs.

Oh wow, congratulations! 24 minutes sounds like an amazing time. I have heard of the charity climbs but really didn't know much about them. Your article was very informative and makes me feel prepared....other than my ability to climb 1,776 stairs.
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