REI Community
Volunteer Park Water Tower
Routes Sorted
L to R R to L Alpha
Volunteer Park Water Tower TR 
Volunteer Park Water Tower (traverse) 

Volunteer Park Water Tower 

YDS: 5.9+ French: 5c Ewbanks: 17 UIAA: VI ZA: 17 British: E1 5a

Type:  TR, 1 pitch, 75'
Original:  YDS: 5.9+ French: 5c Ewbanks: 17 UIAA: VI ZA: 17 British: E1 5a [details]
FA: Alex Martinez 6/8/09
Page Views: 6,828
Submitted By: Eliza Penick on Aug 13, 2009

You & This Route  |  Other Opinions (7)
Your todo list:
Your stars:
Your rating: -none- [change]
Your ticklist: [add new tick]
Your opinion of this PAGE:    [0 people like this page.]
alex, post first ascent


Three fun expanses of brick wall, separated by cement ledges. Brick is uneven with lots of little holds and pockets. Route will depend on which side of the tower you choose to climb. Watch out for the cement ledges, from underneath they look positive, but they are slopers!
You can also spend an enjoyable afternoon traversing around the base of the tower.


The tower was built as a water reservoir in 1906, but is now empty. It is located in the middle of Volunteer Park in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood. Address: 1247 15th Ave. E
From the inside of the tower, choose your window & anchor spot & that will decide which side of the tower you'll climb.
We climbed the east facing side, just to the right of a tall, very leafy tree.


Climb the inside of the tower and rig an anchor to one of the fixed metal banisters. Feed the rope through the window grating onto the ledge & then use a stick to drop the rope over the edge. Belay from the top, inside the tower. Once the climber reaches the top they will need to be lowered down, as all the windows have grating.

Photos of Volunteer Park Water Tower Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: warming up on the traverse
warming up on the traverse
Rock Climbing Photo: Heading up the tower
Heading up the tower
Rock Climbing Photo: Beautiful Easter Sunday at the water tower.
Beautiful Easter Sunday at the water tower.
Rock Climbing Photo: You can see all of the great holds.
You can see all of the great holds.
Rock Climbing Photo: How I setup the belay from inside.
BETA PHOTO: How I setup the belay from inside.

Comments on Volunteer Park Water Tower Add Comment
Show which comments
By chrishar Hargarten
From: Bishop, CA
Apr 15, 2011

Nice FA!
By Panjojo
Oct 10, 2012
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

Really fun climb. For location alone its a classic. Many variations ranging from 5.8 to 5.10+ (imo).

An alternative to belaying from the top is setting up a traditional TR. Most carabiners will fit through the grating at the top, the only concern being rope drag which can be easily nullified with slings.
By kike
Mar 4, 2014

Hellow every one.

My question is about if it is illegal to boulder the water tower's base, only a few inch from the floor. Thank you!
By Jon Nelson
From: Bellingham, WA
Mar 5, 2014

About kike's question, I am assuming it is about the outside, above the ground.

People have been doing the traverse for decades. In the late 70s, my climbing class instructor took us there to traverse. So, technically legal or not, traversing it is probably not going to be noticed.
By Eliza Penick
From: Seattle, WA
Jul 16, 2014

Sorry for the very delayed response, Kike.
It seems to be completely legal & fine to traverse around the bottom of the tower. While no one noticed on the day three of us actually did the ascent, I would imagine it is discouraged at the least (if caught) or involves a fine at worst. Happy buildering!
By caribouman1052
Feb 28, 2015

As of about 1/1/2015, there is now a sign stating that it's illegal to climb on the historic structure. I guess it's time to put the Access Fund to work.
By Zachary k
Apr 5, 2015

Spent a few hours working the traverse on a bizzy Easter Sunday without incident. There are two spots you can traverse where the signs are not even visible. Really fun traverse for what it is.
By Ted Yackulic
Jul 16, 2015

I was booted off the water tower during lunch today. I've traversed on the tower for over 40 years, never thought it was worth top roping, and have to think top roping, which is/was a relatively new practice at the tower, ruined a good thing.
By Journie Evers
Aug 27, 2015

why are they "suddenly" noticing climbers? did anyone get hurt? I think the access fund would be a great option. Climbs like these are a real treat. As I assume its that no one wants to take responsibility for an incident, it could be backed up by solid bolts, or taken off private land? ...or we could have someone dance in a tu-tu to create a diversion.

Mountain Project

The Definitive Climbing Resource

MTB Project

Next Generation MTB Trail Maps

Powder Project

Backcountry Ski Maps & Secret Stashes
FREE Stickers · Gyms · RSS · School of Rock · Contact · About