An education big enough for the adventures of life

Dave Tanis
Director of Adventure Programs
Messiah College

Who would you consider wise enough and skilled enough to hold your teetering life in their hands? That’s what Dave Tanis, director of adventure programs at Messiah College, pondered when he decided to climb the jagged vertical rises of the Grand Teton, Wyoming’s second tallest mountain. The hike required climbers with a grand capacity for mental fortitude and backcountry bravery. 

As word of Tanis’ plan spread, Messiah alumni—some, veterans of Tanis’ adventure education hiking and rock climbing classes—agreed to converge on the mountain simultaneously. “It was exciting to see former students rearrange summer plans in order to be on the mountain together,” says Tanis. “They were no longer in class or dependent on my skill and experience. On this trip we were peers.”

“Messiah’s adventure programs focus on the interpersonal relationships and personal growth that can occur during outdoor adventure activities such as extended wilderness trips, rock climbing, caving, and canoeing. We use Scripture, the language of our legacy, to teach students how to ask for and grant forgiveness, how to confront one another, how to live in Christian community. The experience makes their faith real as they are challenged in day to day action.” –D. Tanis

Day 1:  Three teams of climbers hike seven grueling miles to base camp (elevation 11,000 feet) placing them within striking distance of the 13,770-foot summit. Exhausted from carrying backpacks laden with gear, the teams set up camp, eat, then sleep.  

Day 2: Tanis and two others make a 3:00 a.m. alpine start. “In mountaineering, you want to summit early in the day, before the snow and weather conditions deteriorate,” he says.  As the hike progresses and elevations rise, the climb becomes more mental than physical. Nearing the crux, the most difficult part of the climb, Tanis hangs from a ledge overlooking an 1,800-foot vertical drop. A rope serves as his safety line—attaching him to a teammate who is anchored to the serrated rock face via metal clips. “The exposure is unnerving,” he said. “You feel like you’re hanging out over an abyss.”

Yet, through cooperation, communication, and some perspiration, the team succeeds. Working together and “talking to one another all the time,” Team Tanis scrambles up the final palisade of rocks and summits the Grand. “It was spectacular,” he exclaimed. “The Tetons are the epitome of what a mountain should be.”



Posted in Adventure Education, Alumni, Faculty | 1 Comment »

Posted on December 5th, 2008

One Response to “An education big enough for the adventures of life”

  1. widhi Says:

    nice story bro…:)


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