David Lawyer

How to get into/onto attics, basements, crawl spaces, and the tower. Climbing of exterior walls with ropes, ladders.


2. CRAWL SPACES: (suggest reading "Basements" first)





7. WALL CLIMBING (with ropes, ladders)


There are two basement areas at Throop Memorial Church.


Below the stage and is accessed by stairs from the NW corner of the stage near the exterior stage door. It consists of a large dressing room at the bottom of the stairs (with a large closet) and 2 other small rooms in series with it.


Below the Fireside Room/Women's Restroom and is accessed by stairs from the Public Telephone Room located between the kitchen entrance and the Women's Restroom. The Utility Basement consists of 2 rooms. The first room at the bottom of the interior stairs is the FURNACE BASEMENT room. From this room a fire door leads to the ELECTRIC BASEMENT room. One could also attempt to access the Electric Basement via stairs from the sidewalk on Del Mar Blvd. but this door is usually locked from the inside. The electric basement was once used as a ceramics workshop and it's now proposed to convert it into a church workshop.

Note that "Electric Basement" is short for "Electrical room of the Utility Basement". Similarly for the "Furnace Basement". These names reflect the fact the Electric Basement contains numerous electric meters, fuses, circuit breakers, etc. for supplying both Throop Church and Henry House with electricity. As one would expect, the Furnace Basement contains forced air furnaces to heat the church with the blowers used both for forced hot air and for ventilation using unheated air.

2. CRAWL SPACES: (suggest reading "Basements" first)

The crawl spaces are under the first floor of the building. They have dirt floors and are very dark and dusty. In Sept. 1993 the radon gas level in the Sanctuary was measured at 0.6 pico-curries/liter (a safe level), which implies the radon gas level in the crawl space is not much higher provided the vent blowers are on. Even with the blowers off the radon level may be less than the 4 pico curries/liter danger level. Even at this danger level the risk of death due to a 1 hour exposure is only about 10 in a billion implying that it may not be cost effective to turn the blowers on while working in the crawl space. Access is obtained from either the Stage Basement, the Utility Basement, the Chancel, the Choir Room, the Janitor's Closet, or from pit vents on the outside of the building. Details will be provided later.

One may run some extension cords into the crawl space thru the grilles of the ventilation system. The low grilles in Throop Hall (W wall) and the floor grilles in the sanctuary may be used provided the plug on the extension cord is small enough to pass thru the grille (grounded plugs are too large). The grilles mentioned lead directly to the crawl space and don't connect to any ducts.

In this document, the crawl space is divided into sections: kitchen, Throop hall, sanctuary, and Chancel. They are all separated from each other by walls or other barriers, but sometimes there are gaps in such barriers where a person can crawl from one section to another. So there are often two method of gaining access to one of these crawl spaces: directly and indirectly via crawling into another crawl space first.


It's separated from the rest of the crawl space by a foundation wall. One gets to it by going to the Electric Basement and then crawling thru a small door high up on the W. end of the N. wall (near the doors). Vents to this space are on the E. side of the kitchen, but another vent vents to the basement stairwell.


It's accessed either from the Stage Basement or from the Furnace Basement. The Stage Basement access is a little easier since to enter via the Furnace Basement requires the use of a 6 ft. stepladder placed on the basement floor (and you also need to carefully slide over a vent duct). In the Stage Basement, go to the last room which has louvered ventilation windows (= slat blinds) "looking" up onto the patio. On the S. wall is a crawl opening. If you are entering from the Furnace Basement, crawl thru a small doorway (the door has been removed) high up on the center of the N. wall.


This includes the crawl space under the Mens restroom and adjacent areas. Access is via: 1. a trapdoor in the janitor's closet 2. outside crawl space pit openings on the S. and N. sides of the building. Slide the cement slabs out of the way. 3. from the Throop Hall crawl space near the S. side. A foundation wall prevents access from the center and N. sides. 4. From the Chancel crawl space (a tight squeeze).


It's accessed via: 1. trapdoor in the choir dressing room floor (near the S. exterior door) 2. trapdoor at the N. end of the back hallway N. of the choir dressing room. Look under a carpet. A turn-off for the Los Robles sprinkler valves is under here to the E. 3. from the sanctuary crawl space but it's a tight squeeze under the Chancel sub-structure.

In crossing over ventilation ducts slide carefully, distributing your body weight over the edges if possible. Don't step or kneel on them or they may dent. Crawl under them if possible. There is little headroom in the W. end of the Sanctuary crawl space under the Chancel. More headroom is found along the N. side or in the rear of the Sanctuary.



Easy access is via the upper tower room one floor above the upstairs restroom. Access to the E wing of the attic is easiest from a hole in the E wall of the S storage room of the upper floor (near the fireplace chimney). The attic has various levels. Don't walk on thin boards or plaster that could break and send you falling thru the ceiling. It has happened in the past.

A trapdoor in the ceiling of the Janitors Closet (at the foot of the balcony stairway) gives access to the STAIRWELL ATTIC. This gives access to under the stairway (to fix squeaks) and behind the circuit breaker panel (for tracing electrical conduits or wires (by opening up junction boxes). It also gives access to some of the space between the ceiling of Throop Hall and the floors of the rooms above it. There are several types of pipes in this attic: sewer, sewer vent, water, and electrical conduit pipes.


This gives one access to the lights high above the Chancel. One climbs up to it inside a wall cavity just to the N. of the huge stained glass window depicting Jesus. Go to the rear passageway of the Chancel and walk N. until you get to a door. Using a stepladder, crawl thru a small door above this door. Crawl under the ventilation duct and then go up a crude "ladder". Watch for loose rungs. Then when you get above the ventilation register, traverse S. and climb up a plaster wall with wood "steps". Don't step on the ventilation duct. You will probably need to use both hands so use a head-lamp, a light you can hang on a cord, or a flashlight in your mouth. Step only on strong boards. Since it is very dark in this attic, be prepared for light failure (carry an extra flashlight). It is not safe to descend in the dark. The vent opening to the outside is mostly blocked off.

In this attic you will find small trapdoors above each light fixture. Lift them up to gain access. You should carry a small adjustable wrench to loosen a nut so you can turn the light housings in order to see and remove the halogen tube. You could use a colored pencil etc. to mark the aiming before loosening the nut so that the original aiming may be restored.


Start by entering the tower door just to the S. of the upstairs restroom. Go up the stairway to the upper tower room. Then go up the ship's ladder (extremely steep staircase) passing a small door on the first landing that leads to the flat roof. Continue the upward climb to the bell room of the tower which in 1993 had no bell in it. From here continue upward on the ship's ladder accessing the TOWER ROOF thru a trapdoor. From here one gets a panoramic view of neighborhood and the mountains, etc. There is a crenelated parapet wall around the edge to help keep you from falling off.



It's accessed via a folding "pull down" ladder/stairs located in the Choir Loft in the extreme SW corner of the building near the flagpole. Pull the rope and unfold the ladder. Then go up the ladder and enter a small ATTIC crawl space. Then raise a trapdoor cover and climb out on this roof.


One may climb the fire escape ladder to the top and then by carefully standing on the top rung of this ladder (or on a nearby railing), crawl out on this roof. It's even more tricky to safely get down. Hold on to the gutter but use the handhold only for balance (don't pull on it). One needs to get on this roof to change floodlight bulbs for the parking lot.


This portion of the building roof is not visible from the grounds outside. It provides access to all of the steeply sloped roofs. This flat roof is accessed by the tower staircase and ship's ladder (see above).


To work on the steep sides of the roofs one might use either ropes and/or a roof ladder which "hooks" onto the ridge. Only the rope methods will be discussed here. One may anchor a rope at ground level and then put the rope over a ridge of the roof. There are various ways to get the rope over the ridge. One way is to throw a rope over a ridge. Another is to crawl out on a ridge with a rope (or with an end of a rope). Instead of the main rope, one can first install a string and then use it to pull up the main rope. In fact, mountain climbing rope is too heavy to throw over most ridges but a string may be thrown over if a rock is tied to the end of it. Be careful to aim the rock so that it will not accidentally hit the stained glass windows.

Two ridges are accessible from the roof well (a flat roof next to the tower; see "Flat Roofs"). To get on the sanctuary roof ridge, erect a ladder on the main flat roof well (next to the tower). A homemade rope guide or piece of heavy linoleum on the ridge is required to prevent both shingle damage and rope chaffing. Use a body harness and tie into the main rope using Jumar ascenders or prussik loops (with prussik knots).

Even where the roof is steep, one may walk up the roof valleys without ropes (with rubber soles in fair weather). There are two valleys which are often walked on: 1. at the NE edge of the main flat roof (above the stage door to the S.) 2. At the SW corner of the balcony (overlooking the patio). For case 1 there is a section of roof between the N. aisle flat roof and the valley where it's 50 deg steep. Going up/down this is easy without ropes, since if you slip, you just slide down to the N. aisle flat roof. To go up it, get a running start on the this flat roof and your momentum will take you to a point where you can grab on to a gutter. For case 2, you need to use a ladder on the balcony and it's not quite as safe as case 1 since if you slip you could fall over the brink to the balcony.

Anchor a rope (best to use webbing runners) to large trees, several sprinkler valves, the fire escape stairway, a locked car disabled so no one can start it, etc. But don't anchor it to the electrical boxes in the front lawn since they are attached to the conduit with compression fittings and may slip. Also, around 2000, someone kicked a box and broke all three thin compression fittings showing that they are not strong. People have also broken off sprinkler heads by kicking them, implying that you shouldn't use them as anchors.

It is fairly easy (and fun) to walk up and down the steep roof using a rope. Face the ridge for both going up and down. Always lean a bit away from the roof so as to keep tension on the rope. Without tension, it's like having no rope at all and you are likely to slip. Most of your weight is supported by the roof and not by the rope so you can go up and down by just holding the rope with your hands (hand over hand). However, a prussik knot or Jumars attaching you (use a body harness) to the rope should be used for safety purposes to catch you if you slip. If you start to slip, release your hand so that it will not pull the prussik knot down, allowing the prussik knot to tighten and arrest the fall. the

It's nice to have someone watch: 1. to insure that no one unties (or god forbid cuts) the rope. 2. to help rescue you (or phone for the fire dept. to rescue you) in case you fall over the brink, etc. and can't rescue yourself. Of course you should carry extra prussik loops just in case, etc.


Someone once actually walked along the peak ridge of the sanctuary without ropes but don't try it as it will damage the shingles and you could be killed if you slip. It's much safer to crawl along the ridge. One way to crawl is to place a long (several ft.) folded strip of linoleum under you and slide along it. When you reach the end of the strip, lift your butt, etc. off the linoleum slightly and push the linoleum strip forward. This method helps protect the sides of your shoes and clothes from abrasion.

7. WALL CLIMBING (with ropes, ladders)

To descend (rappel) down the sides of the TOWER, anchor a strap loop to the joists of the tower roof. A slot above two joists has been made for this purpose on the S side of the trapdoor. Use a prussik sling or Jumars for safety. Starting from the notches is easy, but to start from the corners you may want to walk out on the outer ledge using a 2nd rope for direct aid. Use padding under rope at sharp edges. To be safe, it's advisable to use ropes for safety even if you are also using a ladder.


40 ft. extension ladders will not reach to the top. The use of 2 ropes is required. Go on the roof using rope 1 anchored at ground level on the N. or S. sides. Have rope 2 anchored to the opposite side and use it to hold rope 1 at the bend point where rope 1 bends to go over the flat part of the gable parapet. You may also anchor to the square 1/2 " rebar found protruding from E. side of gable parapet. Rappel down rope 1 to work on walls. Use padding at all sharp ridges to protect the rope from fraying.


Erect it while it is collapsed to 20 ft. Make sure the ladder feet are well anchored, hold the opposite end up over your head, and walk toward the base, pushing the ladder up as you walk. When it's straight up, it's possible to turn it to face a wall (2 persons can do this more safely). Then lean it against a building wall and extend it using the rope while it is leaning against the building. If it's nearly straight up it (or a helper pulls it back so that it barely touches the building) it will be easier to extend (but don't let it fall over). Make sure the feet are well set and at the same level (put padding under one foot if needed). The ladder slope must be within a safe range. One way to place it (20 ft. length) against a building when there are trees in the way is to place it on top of a stepladder like a teeter-totter (not necessarily balanced). Then tilt it and move both ladders so as to put the extension ladder up against the building.


When using ropes make sure that the correct knots are used. There are many mountaineering books that explain their use but only a fraction of the information in these books is of any use at Throop. For example, there is no belaying done here.