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The Rooftop of Hokkaido: The Senior Hike 2022 (Extended)
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What better way to discover where you live and rediscover who you are than standing on the rooftop of Hokkaido?


The Rooftop of Hokkaido

The Senior Hike 2022 (Extended)

By Will Downer, Kate James, and Omar Kassem

**This post is an extension of “Trials and Tribulations” originally published on 30 September 2022.**

   The Rooftop of Hokkaido awaits

Embarking on the first group hike the school has seen in three long years, the Class of 2023s Senior Trip took the students to the astounding heights of the peak of Asahi-dake, the highest mountain on the island of Hokkaido. There, they overcame great natural obstacles, deepened connections, and witnessed the most beautiful sights that Hokkaido has to offer. Asahi-dake, reaching a height of 2,290 meters, is just a few mountain peaks away from the largest crater caused by volcanic activity in Japan. Located in Daisetsuzan Park, this massive mass of stone rises up from the surroundings and marks one of the most desirable hiking locations on the island.

Starting the incredible hike, the seniors marveled at the impressive sight before them. While days were spent preparing for the main event, nothing could have prepared them for the grueling trek that was to come. Starting the slow climb up their first major obstacle, many seniors were taken aback by how difficult the climb really was—and how long it would be.

Mr. P takes in the view

After several hours of hard work, the resilient pupils reached the first marked landmark of the hike—a thin wooden pole that proudly read “2,096M”. Following the advice of the most adept hiker among them: Mr. Piazza, the seniors hiked up Asahi-dake slowly with few breaks. Along the trail were various “resting rocks”, places to catch your breath and take in the stunning view.

In a show of comradery, students waited for the groups behind them to join them at the summit. Celebrating their class solidarity, the seniors ate a hard-earned lunch at 2,290 meters atop the roof of Hokkaido. Together, they got ready for the breathtaking (literally) remainder of the hike to come, with so much more to discover about Hokkaido, their classmates, and themselves.

   The first steep descent

The group’s final destination was the Kuro-dake ropeway, a vast 14km away from Asahi-dake’s peak. Though 14 kilometers isn’t very daunting on paper, looking out over the seemingly endless rocky plains broken only by hazy outlines of mountains appearing impossible in size added yet another layer of exhaustion to the already tired hikers. Despite this, the climbers set off again and started the descent down the other side of Asahi-dake. 

Despite their anticipation of moving downhill at last, the steep decline of Asahi-dake atop the loose gravel threw some of the less experienced hikers off balance. This was just the first taste the group had of Daisetsuzan’s difficult downward decline. Over the course of the first descent, it became increasingly apparent that descending may prove to be a greater challenge than ascending.   

Atop the highest peak

Hiking for hours on end, the group began to fall into a steady rhythm while they walked. In an interview with Senior William Clipstone, we asked about the highlights of the hike he said “climbing with Noah and getting to the top first”.The seniors this year have displayed companionship throughout the hike, but most of the hikers could agree that William and Noah were a standout pair. William went on to say “While me and Noah were hiking up, I had some serious vertigo, but Noah stayed by my side the entire time.            He saved my life”. 

Throughout the entire hike, William and Noah showed a positive attitude and inspired the rest of their class. No longer was the primary concern reaching the end of the trail; those thoughts took a back seat as the class drank in the stunning views while they approached the Caldera. Knowing that they were getting close to the volcanic crater, the group gained a boost of energy that was just what they needed to finally reach the summit that overlooked what Mr. Piazza had promised was the most incredible view of the hike, and to be sure, one of the most incredible sights in Hokkaido (if not Japan!): The colossal Ohachidaira Caldera. 

The Ohachidaira Caldera

   Trail through the valley

The Ohachidaira Caldera is 2km in diameter and is found in the center of Mt. Daisetsu. The caldera is a result of the newly formed Mt. Daisetsu volcano detonating nearly 30,000 years ago. The caldera brought a new palette of distinct colors to the scenery, treating the group to blue swipes of solid ice, vibrant evergreen trees, and even making the dreary brown and beige of mud and sand seem like deliberately placed contrasting strokes on a master painter's canvas. The class traveled around the circumference of the caldera, taking in the sights and sounds of raw nature as much as they could while also maintaining their fragile balance on the rocky path. 

Rock reflection

Their spirits high after passing a major landmark, the students and teachers pressed on towards Kuro-dake. After stopping for a brief meal upon a small peak overlooking the crater, many of the students realized that their previously well-stocked water bottles were either completely empty or critically low. Fortunately for them, an hour's hike brought them to what many consider the highlight of their experience: a small, nondescript river formed from the melting of colossal ice blocks higher up the cliffs. Here, they refilled their water bottles with what was the coolest, sweetest water imaginable at the time. As they lay on the grassy banks, they reminisce about their experiences so far, sharing anecdotes and thoughts on the scenery with each other. Many members of the group shared the sentiment that the river was a key part of the hike; replenishing their strength and resolve to finish the monumental hike strong. 

   Senior bond

The hike was far from over, however. Despite their replenished strength at the river, the end being so close yet so far was a mental hurdle nearly proportional to Asahi-dake itself. Fortunately, the two hours that remained of the hike went smoothly, and the students made it to the opposite side of Kuro-dake safely and eagerly boarded the ski lift that delivered them straight to the ropeway that would take them to the school bus. 

As the tired hikers rode back to school on that bustling bus, friends recounted the fresh memories of what felt like life and death out on the trails of Daisetsuzan. And as Mr. Piazza said, “This group of seniors was the most positive and upbeat I've ever hiked with”.  

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※Proceeds from this event will go into the PTA fund.

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Join us for a Heartfulness Workshop December 4th with Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu. Mr. Murphy-Shigematsu is a psychologist and author in mental health, wellbeing, and diversity. He has been teaching and researching at Stanford University for 20 years as a faculty of the School of Medicine. You can learn more about Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu through his TED talks.



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