Approximately two weeks ago, a student from Toronto, who goes by the name Chase TO (as in Toronto), filmed himself illegally free climbing the highest tower of the Peak 2 Peak Gondola.
He said the idea came to him about five years ago while here on a ski trip. He was riding the Peak 2 Peak Gondola from Whistler to Blackcomb Mountain and noticed there are ladders that go all the way to the top.
“So, I kept that thought in the back of my mind … Four or five years go by and I’m finally in Vancouver and I decided to take the bus up to Whistler and it’s my first night there, it’s about 1 a.m., and I start hiking up the Blackcomb Ascent Trail on my own,” said Chase.
“I’m not a hiker so it’s a pretty challenging ascent, but I make my way up and I get to the base of the tower at the top of Blackcomb Mountain at about four in the morning and I’m absolutely knackered, I’m exhausted. The sun is just creeping up over the mountains at this point in time, it’s an incredible view like nothing I’ve ever seen before in my entire life and I start climbing up these ladders with no safety equipment, no harness, no ropes, nothing.”
Chase, who comes from a climbing background, has recently been getting into the sub-genre of climbing that he calls “urban exploring” that also includes things like climbing cranes at construction sites in cities.
“I did rock climbing for a number of years and I found it quite interesting being able to take these skills that you develop in rock climbing and bring those into an urban environment and you add a pinch of adrenaline of course when you do these types of climbs without any belays or harnesses or safety equipment,” he said.
“And the views that you get at the top of a rock-climbing wall in an indoor gym versus on top of a crane on top of your city are not comparable.”
In an emailed statement, Vail Resorts said: “Whistler Blackcomb strongly condemns the reckless actions of an individual who scaled a Peak 2 Peak Gondola tower in the early morning of July 19.
“The individual trespassed on Whistler Blackcomb’s tenure, bypassed a locked gate and illegally climbed the tower for the purpose of filming himself. This action put him at extreme risk, as well as had the potential to damage Whistler Blackcomb property.”
However, despite the illegal nature of his climb, Chase claims he had no interest in damaging or disrupting the gondola’s operation in any way and was only interested in doing the climb and getting some footage for his YouTube channel.
“I had no intention of disrupting any of the park’s operations or the gondolas operations,” said Chase. “I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time or cause any disruptions, I just came to do my climb, take my videos and pictures and leave everything the way I found it.
“Of course, it is certainly frowned upon, and some people would be angry with me should they have found me climbing, but like I said, I did everything in my power to ensure that that didn’t happen and to not cause any problems.”
But with the recent vandalism of the Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish that included the main cable being deliberately severed in both September 2020 and August 2019, these sorts of stunts are not something Vail Resorts or the local RCMP takes lightly. The culprit in the cable cutting at the Squamish Gondola has yet to be caught.
“We are thankful that this individual did not harm himself during this stunt, but, have referred the matter to the RCMP,” continued the Vail Resort’s statement.
“There is no risk to the public from this incident. Our lifts are inspected regularly, and a pre-operational inspection is always conducted prior to opening. We are vigilant in upholding our rigorous lift-safety standards and practises.”
Under Canada’s Criminal Code, a stunt like this could be considered mischief if the perpetrator destroys or damages property, renders property dangerous or ineffective, obstructs or interferes with the operation of property, or interferes with any person in the operation of property, and can be met with a punishment of up to ten years in prison.
If those criteria are not met, the perpetrator can be charged with trespassing and face up to six months in prison or up to a $2,000 fine.
Pique reached out to the RCMP for an update on the investigation but did not hear back by press deadline.