Altitude 311m a.s.l
The Haw Lantern © jim jones
Craig y Merched is used as a collective name for a vast number of small (and not-so-small) gritstone buttresses at the very head of Cwm Mynach in the southern Rhinogydd, More correctly the group should be called Upper Cwm Mynach Crags, as a number olf these crags are actually no where near Craig y Merched itself, some even being located on the opposite side of the valley above Cwm Mynach Isaf farm.
Crags are listed in an arc from west to east. Not all are visible; some are hidden by trees. All crags are on access land, owned either by local farmers or Coed Cadw. Most of these crags have a sunny aspect and are quick to dry, but midges can be a serious problem in still summer weather and some approaches are bracken-central once it's grown.
The valley's honeypot is Rhino's Buttress. Despite being very nicely positioned and with excellent views, it would now really benefit from increased traffic. In the past, this little buttress has been very popular and once was the second most visited crag in the Rhinogydd after Llechau'r Garn ('Barmouth Slabs'). Nearby is the far less visited but bigger Three Pillar Crag, which is very worthwhile, has excellent rock and deserves far greater popularity. North Buttress is worth a look too. Similarly, all six Upper Craig y Merched crags give good climbing and, again, are very unfairly neglected. Those prepared to make the extra effort to get to any of these crags will not be disappointed.
The area is far from being 'climbed out' and there has been a lot of (still continuing) development in this area of the southern Rhinogydd since the 2002 guide, with loads of new routes. The development of bouldering is still very much in its infancy, although there is massive potential in certain places, particularly so for the adventurous boulderer who is prepared to simply go exploring with a mat.
The area will feature in the new Welsh Grit (Rhinogydd) guidebook, a Steep Stone Publishing project, which is currently under development. Before then Steep Stone will publish a crag selective interim guidebook to Cwm Mynach, which will include all the well-known Craig y Merched crags as well as many of the 'new' crags. Publication of this interim guide, in a free-to-download PDF format, is anticipated during 2019.
The once well-established and easy to follow approach path to Rhino's Buttress (and therefore to most other Lower Craig y Merched and all Upper Craig y Merched crags) has become very difficult to follow due to encroaching heather and scrub following deforestation. With the permission of Coed Cadw/Woodland Trust and the co-operation of the Snowdonia NP, BMC Cymru will undertake a programme of path improvement work during 2018-19. This will include waymarking the path to Rhino's Buttress, vegetation cut-back, improved signage and the installation of new stiles.
A stile has already been installed almost directly above Rhino's Buttress' descent gully, thus providing a permanent solution to the need to climb over the stone boundary wall above the Buttress in order to access all Upper Craig y Merched crags, The long-established 'gap' in this wall was repaired at the beginning of 2017 but, disappointingly, had re-collapsed in a matter of months. This stile will ensure that climbers will not be the cause of any further damage.
All Craig y Merched crags are on open access land with no access issues. However, the approach notes in Meirionnydd 2002 (p.363) are useless on virtually all counts as they simply will not get you to the crag and, in addition, the initially described approach is over farmland (not access land) with absolutely no public right of way.
The land-owner has tolerated climbers walking across his land for many years but, unfortunately, this is no longer the case. To avoid trespassing, climbers must no longer approach the crags past Blaen Cwm Mynach from the small Coed Cadw car park at the very end of the tarmac road. Instead, climbers must use the following approach (as agreed between BMC Cymru and Coed Cadw in 2017) to reach Craig Blaen y Cwm and all other Upper and Lower Craig y Merched crags:
Revised Approach (2017)
Approach from the A496 as described in the Meirionnydd guide but do not continue beyond the small, gated, narrow stone bridge over the Afon Cwm Mynach. Instead, park considerately just short of the bridge at SH683209, where a Coed Cadw forestry road heads off rightwards, ensuring that no gates are obstructed as access may be required to the forestry at any time. New bilingual signage indicates this parking area. (If needed, there is ample additional offroad parking a short distance back along the council road.)
Once parked, follow the gently rising forestry road for about 2 kilometres to reach a staggered cross-road at SH687229.
 For Craig Blaen y Cwm: Follow the forestry road uphill from the cross-road to a junction with a public footpath on the right. (SH685230) The initially indistinct footpath leads into a walled enclosure. Walk due North to a gap in the wall; the crags are just beyond. Allow at least 15 minutes from the cross-road to the base of the scree below the crag.
 For Lower (and Upper) Craig y Merched: Just before reaching the cross-road, take the minor (currently unused) forest track on the right. Follow this for about 100 metres and, from the outside of a RH bend (sign) , follow the path leftwards through trees and climb steeply up the scrubby hillside following marker posts towards Craig y Merched’s Rhino’s Buttress. The posts lead all the way to the base of the buttress. Allow 60 minutes or so from the parking to Rhino's Buttress (+15-30 mins extra for Upper Craig y Merched crags.)
(Note: This approach will NOT get you to South Buttress, Explorers' Wall and Bear Rock as these are located some distance to the south. These crags must be accessed directly from the forestry road beneath or, better, from the hanging valley above, which may be accessed via Rhino's Buttress.)
For all Upper Craig y Merched crags, continue ascending past Rhino's Buttress (on its LHS) to a stile over the stone wall. Follow the wall for 20 metres os so to pick up a faint undulating path leading to Upper Craig y Merched's Central Buttress (which is fully described in Meirionnydd 2002). There are no paths as such to any of the other five new Upper Craig y Merched crags although, by Rhinogydd standards, much of the terrain affords comparatively straightforward walking.
|The "Follow the right forestry path" is somewhat misleading now, as a new path has been cut that looks like it goes straight up to the crags. Do not take this unless you are partial to a two hour boggy scramble to get to the crag. Keep on going on the base of the valley until you are almost below the crag.|
neuromancer - 05/Oct/12
|Great little crag! We did a few routes on one of the buttresses, but there is plenty of scope for those climbing up to E2, and quite a lot of good-looking rock which isn't in the guide.|
Andrew Barker - 09/Feb/06
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