VIDEO: Technicians Face Fear As They Light Space Needle

Dec 2, 2013

Technician Matt Waffle climbs Seattle's Space Needle to hook up holiday lights. “For me, I faced my fear, I did it,” Waffle said.
Technician Matt Waffle climbs Seattle's Space Needle to hook up holiday lights. “For me, I faced my fear, I did it,” Waffle said.
Credit AP Photo/Manuel Valdes

Perhaps the most terrifying moment in this video about lighting the Space Needle is when a technician says, “When the weather’s not cooperating, that’s when we do rock, paper, scissors or something to figure out who is going to be the one going up there.”

That leaves one wondering, what could happen to the guy who goes up there on a slippery, rainy day?

Manuel Valdes, a journalist in the Associated Press’s Seattle bureau, attached a GoPro camera to technician Matt Waffle’s helmet to give us a glimpse into this nerve-wracking experience. Waffle climbs up about 600 feet, bare-handed, clipping himself in as he ascends the needle to hook up holiday lights.  

“I would say it’s a healthy fear of heights – it keeps me safe,” Waffle said. “When I do the stuff where I have to pass the strand around my back and clip it up top – that’s kind of the hardest step because you’re reaching back, you’re looking out – there’s a lot of coordination."

When he climbs back down, he said he feels pride.

“For me, I faced my fear, I did it,” Waffle said. “I came down and afterward there’s a sense of accomplishment.”

But technicians may have to return to the tip of the needle if residents from Queen Anne and Capitol Hill call in about bulbs that have gone out. If enough have been extinguished, the crew will replace them, weather permitting.