While the park’s still closed, we thought to make the most of it and bring everyone some really unique perspectives. We’ve all been on the coasters and felt the anticipation of that slow climb up the steep lift hill, held our breath as the train crests the summit, and – if we’re not too distracted by the excitement – we possibly looked around to admire the stunning views. But with the imminent drop approaching, I’d imagine the number of people enjoying those views are in the minority.
And then it’s gone in an instant.
So with the coasters not running, Nicoleta Micle, our Digital Marketing Manager, and I whipped up this 4 Summits in 4 Days idea. We would climb the tallest coasters in the park, as well as our iconic Wonder Mountain, and not only record the ascent, but capture the views up top that so few people really get to appreciate.
(And so yes, it was indeed two women who climbed Behemoth, Yukon Striker and Leviathan... I was surprised the number of people who automatically assumed it was a man who did it. Not the case!)
I would also like to acknowledge the rides maintenance crew who do these climbs daily for their inspections while we’re in operation. Having been up there, I have complete respect for the work they do every day.
Summit #1: Wonder Mountain
Getting to the top of our park’s majestic centerpiece didn’t require any harnesses, but rather countless steps up a stairwell in the mountain’s belly. Three roller coasters run through the mountain today, and in one of the shots you can see the place where the Vortex track curves around its top before zooming down the side. We ventured to the top of Victoria Falls where you can see the platform for our famed divers and our fountains and International Street down below. More than 30,000 gallons of water flows over the falls every minute and it’s the power source for our park’s air conditioning system. Next, we explored the old pathways along Wonder Mountain which guests used to have access to back in the 1980s. When the roller coasters were installed in the mountain, this access closed for safety precautions.
Summit #2: Behemoth
Built in 2008, Behemoth is classified as a hypercoaster because it’s a complete circuit roller coaster with a height that’s more than 61 metres (200 feet). Behemoth is in fact just over 70 metres (230 feet) tall at its highest point. And that was exactly where we wanted to go.
We wanted to climb Behemoth in the morning to take advantage of the best light for photos and video of the surrounding park. Being in marketing, at a place that just begs for amazing outdoor multimedia, you quickly learn the value of a deep blue sky. With the sun still climbing low to the south, we would have the best blue sky looking west and north right over top of the park.
The climb up Behemoth’s lift hill – and later Leviathan – wasn’t overly strenuous, if you can believe it. We had a different challenge of sorts. We were both wearing full-body safety harnesses and had to clip the attached lanyard to the cable that ran along the handrail on the stairs. Not to get overly complicated, but the lanyard attaches to a slider of sorts, that rides this cable over the top of all the joints connecting it to the stairs. You have to give it a little tug to get it over the joints. We’re doing this while, in the other hand, we’re carrying our cameras on a stabilizer, trying to record a smooth ascent up the stairs.
Doing these things simultaneously while trying to keep your mind off the growing distance between you and the ground, is no easy feat. It didn’t help that you could see right through the gaps in the metal steps.
But we made it to the top! All 322 steps. It offered beautiful views of Behemoth Lake below, the water park, and White Water Bay wave pool, not to mention the rest of the park and the Toronto skyline to the south.
Summit #3: Yukon Striker
Our world record-breaking dive coaster was built only last year and it’s still an impressive attraction to behold, with that 90-degree drop into an underwater tunnel and its four inversions twisting over the forested landscape of Frontier Canada.
Lucky us, it also features a funicular, or inclined elevator – so no stair climbing on this one! Getting to the top was easy, but no less intimidating with views over Splash Works, Vortex and Wonder Mountain to the east. And that 90-degree drop! Peering over that edge was probably the most intimidating part of this climb.
Summit #4: Leviathan
I made have neglected to mention that we committed to this adventure right in the middle of the year’s worst heat wave. Somehow this did not deter us from tackling the hardest climb in the park. But we brought lots of water.
It helped (slightly) that the best lighting conditions for Leviathan's views were in the evening, so we planned a late day hike. Looking up at the stairs from the base of the lift hill - 430 steps to be precise - I’ll be honest, they looked like they went on forever.
We clipped in and began our ascent. I don't usually have problems with heights, but I'll be honest, we needed to take a break halfway. It provided a great opportunity to get photos and video, but also a chance for me to steel my nerves for the remainder of the climb.
We pushed on and reached the top at about 7:20pm that evening. Leviathan is classified as a 'giga' coaster - a type with a height or drop that's more than 300 feet. This one measures in at over 93 metres (306 feet) above the ground, and the views were absolutely stunning. Though the heat wave left a bit of a haze in the sky, we could still see alll the way to the CN Tower. Cars zipped along Hwy 400 to the west like tiny ants, and the new hospital across Major Mackenzie stood like a little lego building my son would make at home.
The park itself was just beautiful. From up there, seeing Wonder Mountain and its falls, Arthur's Baye and all the various tops of rides and coasters peeking out over a lush canopy of trees - it was like a fantasy world. We stayed up there probably longer than we needed to, because we just couldn't tear ourselves away.
So there you have it - four summits in four days. Vantage points that the general public just doesn't get to see. Unless you're strapped into the coaster about to take a dive. But that's a whole other adventure. One, that I hope we all get to return to very soon.