Newnes – Mystery Mountain

Party: Tim (T1), Tracey

What is mysterious about Mystery Mountain? Is it something about the imposing rocky head, 370m above Newnes and the Wolgan River? Is it the interesting collection of pagodas, which you can scramble up fairly easily, but only to spot a taller one nearby? Well, it’s none of those and all of those (cryptically, and mysteriously, as I found out recently) – but the origin of the name wasn’t anywhere near my mind as Tracey and I left the city late on a Saturday for a short weekend away. The car had been (hastily) packed for comfy camping and canyoning, and Mystery or Donkey Mountain were back-up plans.

The weather was hardly promising on the journey, with a steady rain falling that only let up after we descended into the Wolgan Valley. I was keen to camp on the south side of the river and was relieved to find the water level at the ford low enough for the trusty Forester. In the gloomy winter weather and light failing early, we decided best to pitch a tent and chillax about a fire, and although cool, it was only momentarily dreary with some brief misty showers. We had more problems with our neighbours, as it turned out – being a particularly sneezy wombat lurking around our tent, and similarly sneezey camper (who Tracey dubbed “horse-man”). Somewhat ironically, when finally retreating out of the cold near 11pm, we only then realised that the weather had completely cleared and the stars were out.

We awoke to a cold, frosty morning and within moments we silently agreed that it would be a really nice idea to wait for the sun to come over. Naturally, being deep in the valley, this did take a rather long time to occur, so by the time we’d emerged and cooked a hearty porridge, it was after 11am.

Bountiful fungi at Newnes. No, do not eat these.

The plan was Nightmare Canyon, the short tributary beyond Pipeline Canyon, and I expected the two of us to make light work of it. However when Tracey asked, “Have you a harness for me?”, I realised I didn’t (stupidly) and thus we instead turned to Mystery Mountain. I had vague directions from Tim “T2” Vollmer of a track roughly opposite the Newnes Hotel, however for something more challenging we started up an old road near the campground, then bashed up to the cliff line. Skirting some way around, looking for a pass, it was Tracey who spotted a marker (white paint) on a rock ahead and we quickly found the track proper and first pass up the cliffs.

Cairn-building gone mad... they were everywhere.

Reaching the top of the pass, we were greeted with a collection of stunning rock pagodas, but also a biting wind coming down the valley. It was supremely uncomfortable on the tops, a shame given the spectacular views.

Tracey considers a pagoda climb; Newnes Hotel in valley beyond.

So, some quick photos in the uncomfortable conditions followed by a hasty retreat off the mountain. It was a shame not to be able to climb and explore more of the tops; overall the elements were just plain against us.

The Wolgan River valley upstream of Newnes

On the way down, I was aggrieved to find the very broad track marked by paint, cairns and white tape. Arghhh.

So why “Mystery” Mountain? Well the mystery is indeed in the name, with the common belief that it is a corruption of “misty” – which, if you’ve camped at Newnes in wet and frosty weather, is entirely believable!

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One Reply to “Newnes – Mystery Mountain”

  1. After helping take a group on a Glow Worm Tunnel hike last weekend, I had juice left when we got back to camp and so went up the Mystery Mountain track to get a view.

    From Newnes the peak cries out to be climbed, and the view from the top is fantastic as you might expect. It’s worth doing if you’re back in Newnes after an easier day and the round trip is under 2 hours.

    The horror at having to walk on a marked trail is a bit dramatic and, well, comes across as a bit elitist also. But the cairns and tape were gone when I did it, and the white paint was pretty tasteful (at least compared to European trail marking!) so I think except for a couple of big arrows it was no more obnoxious than many other tracks in the Blueys.

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