Forum Index > Trip Reports > Valhalla Peak (Olympics) 19 Dec 2020
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kitya
Fortune Cookie



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Fortune Cookie
PostMon Dec 21, 2020 12:32 am 
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Trying (unusually for me) new camera-less life, so no photos. But anyway, it looked exactly like this:


Also, I didn't actually summit.

Valhalla Peak AKA P5345 is a small summit in Olympics that promises amazing views of Mount Constance and Mount Jupiter. I figured going on a stormy day would avoid the crowds and I was right. Cookie and me started from Dosewallips road that is washed out about 0.5 mile from the Tunnel Creek trailhead, elevation 500 ft. There is no pass required at the make shift small parking area near the washout and there is space maybe for 3-5 cars, but lots of broken glass, so beware.

Tunnel creek trail is short and sweet. It has a few blowdown large trees, but other than that is in perfect condition. It climbs 4500 feet in about 3 miles through great shady old growth forest, the thread is really good, though we have not seen any other people. Around 2000 feet rhododendrons start to appear. There is only one creek on the trail, so probably not a great trail to be in summer, but really nice in winter and might be amazing in Spring, when rhododendrons will bloom. In winter it was a lot of fun looking at them with snow.

Snow actually didn't appear until 4000 feet, but after that it surprisingly quickly went from dusting to waist deep. This is trail is actually perfect for winter snowshoe adventure, starting at 500 feet trailhead should be accessible year round and going all the way through large old growth forest it should be safe from avy danger on most days. The forest opens up once you get to the ridge, but it also becomes flatter there. It was actually quite beautiful and just insane amounts of wind blown soft cold snow. Trail breaking was tiresome as even with snowshoes I was sinking waist deep. It was like swimming through the snowy forest.

Unfortunately as we moved higher the storm was getting stronger. Huge snow covered trees near me started bending in the wind and snow was blowing every way. I have never seen something like this before. It was getting hard to even just stand up, but finally we were making our way up the ridge to the summit of Valhalla.

As we were on the ridge, only 200 feet from the summit, not even 200 vertical feet, just 200 horizontal feet and only about 50 vertical feet, but I couldn't see anything at all. This is where things finally are completely open and there were no more trees to give any protection from the wind. I wanted to go more up and I think I would have made it, but the wind and blowing snow became too much for Cookie. She started crying and pulling me back. It is as if dogs do not really care about arbitrary geographical points. And so after climbing 5300 feet with only 50 more feet to go, I had to turn back.

Well, crap. Whatever.

We retreated back to the trees and Cookie couldn't be happier to get as far from the blowing winds as possible as fast as possible.

Since we rarely go to Olympics on the way back we also stopped by for a quick stretching of the legs and walked up the nearby small Mount Walker. There is not much of a hike and no views due to rain, but we got to enjoy some very hungry, clearly habituated, recently renamed Canada Jays.

https://www.audubon.org/news/the-gray-jay-will-officially-be-called-canada-jay-again


Though I personally think these jays are clearly addicted to fast food and are definitely very American.
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zimmertr
TJ Zimmerman



Joined: 24 Jun 2018
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TJ Zimmerman
PostMon Dec 21, 2020 2:11 am 
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I love the photo of the four perched birds on the railing.
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Anne Elk
BrontosaurusTheorist



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BrontosaurusTheorist
PostMon Dec 21, 2020 4:57 am 
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I don't know about the rest of Canada, but in the years I lived in Alberta, I only ever heard those birds referred to as "Whiskey Jacks", or gray jays.  The view from Mt. Walker is great on a clear day but kind of a tourist trap (especially since you can drive to the top).

Kitya,  despite many trips up to Lake Constance in years past,  I've never been on the Tunnel Creek trail; will have to check it out.  I haven't been up the Dose road since the before the farther-east washout. Is this it ... only worse now?  I "borrowed" the pic below for ref in my Constance files ... I think from a WTA report:
Aug 04
Aug 04

It rankled me to hear the FS pushed back access even further from the old river washout that adds another 6 miles RT to a Lake Constance day trip.  If anyone has current photos of  the newer washout, would you post them?  Maybe in one of the old threads on the Dosewallips.

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"There are yahoos out there.  Itís why we canít have nice things."  - Tom Mahood
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KascadeFlat
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PostMon Dec 21, 2020 7:09 am 
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What a great write up! Photos almost not needed. biggrin.gif You aren't alone in being thwarted by winter. She's turned me around for home plenty of times. Now you have the perfect excuse to go back and see the rhodies in bloom.

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kitya
Fortune Cookie



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Fortune Cookie
PostMon Dec 21, 2020 7:51 am 
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zimmertr yep, these jays are funny little birds!

Anne Elk Sorry I didn't take any photos of the before tunnel creek washout either, but it is bigger now, more like two creek washouts. There was a small stream of water flowing through. You probably could even drive through it and it actually looks way better than the washouts on the (still open) Middle Fork road, but the road is blocked right before the washout, so I guess there are no plans to repair it.

Mount Walker road is also gated/closed in winter next to the highway for no particular reason I can see and there is really not much space for parking on the shoulder of the highway, perhaps they do so just to make Canada Jays upset. They clearly miss tourist food up top smile.gif And yes, I'm also surprised they got renamed, but Canada Jay is the official correct name now, wikipedia and all major bird id pages now call it Canada Jay.

KascadeFlat Ha-ha. Yes, this is what I tell myself - an excuse to go back is good. And next time I can try from the different trailhead too so that I get even more variety! But Olympics is such a long drive! And they ask everyone to stay in the car now on the ferry! Sad! Going out on the deck and watching the water was the best part of ferry ride before, but now we just have to sit in the car! P.S. Your phone number is great smile.gif
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meck
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PostMon Dec 21, 2020 11:31 am 
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Oof, that's a work-out from the Dose side!  I was up there from that side about 5 weeks ago, the snow was only ~8-16" deep at 5050 pass.  I can only imagine how much more challenging that was now!  The Tunnel Creek side (assuming you can get to the TH) is a much more pleasant ascent (mush easier on the knees going back down too), but does get "busy" in the summer.  You'll definitely need to go back under better weather conditions as the views are quite enjoyable.

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kitya
Fortune Cookie



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Fortune Cookie
PostMon Dec 21, 2020 11:58 am 
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Do you know when does tunnel creek trailhead side usually gets accessible (by car) meck? Does snow tend to stay there long or melts out early?
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coldrain108
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Thundering Herd
PostMon Dec 21, 2020 12:38 pm 
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kitya wrote:
Though I personally think these jays are clearly addicted to fast food and are definitely very American.

I watched a pair of these guys tear open a wasp's nest and devour the squigglers.  After witnessing that I began noticing torn up wasp nest remnants all along the trails for the next few days.

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"The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch and do nothing"  - Albert Einstein
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meck
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PostMon Dec 21, 2020 1:39 pm 
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Access to the Tunnel Creek side seems to vary quite a bit.  There have been a number of TRs over on the WTA from that side in the last 2-3 weeks, so it looks like its not been snowed under yet (although a very large tree had come down across the road a while back but may have already been cut out).  I usually assume that its a no-go by this time in December since its at ~2400' elevation, but the TRs indicate that it should still be drivable (a saw and axe might be a good insurance policy for small stuff across the road).

Unless you see a TR from someone recently visiting it, I wouldn't bother making the time investment to drive there until the mid-April time frame.  Depending on the snow year, the snow will linger in that east facing valley easily until May on the trail, though the road should melt out sooner (it could be accessible in late Feb... just don't count on it).

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kitya
Fortune Cookie



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Fortune Cookie
PostMon Dec 21, 2020 2:44 pm 
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They are certainly tough (and smart!) little birdies coldrain108! All corvids are!

Thanks meck! I'll definitely consider going again when the weather is better and I will try the Tunnel Creek trailhead next time for variety.
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Mike Collins
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PostMon Dec 21, 2020 7:31 pm 
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coldrain108 wrote:
I watched a pair of these guys tear open a wasp's nest and devour the squigglers.

Thanks for sharing that observation. I have seen wasp nests torn apart but assumed it was bears doing it. Years ago this was also noticed (scroll down to pages 316-317).
https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/4070616.pdf
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