For the return, I decided to veer right onto the broader track that carries the Beacons Way; it leads into some marshy stuff, and I can’t imagine why anyone would prefer it.
There and back to Fan Llia in 90 minutes, I moved the car up to the summit of the minor road through the Afon Llia valley, where there is a good off-road space for one car. It’s a near-1500ft start for Fan Nedd (2175ft), just a mile away – again, the cairn is not the summit, but this time there is a clearer marker by means of a trig point. A bee-line for Fan Gyhirych (2379ft) would involve too much descent, and into untracked ground, so walkers return to the Fan Nedd cairn for a path towards the Bwlch y Duwynt.
Just before the bwlch, a fence-side path leads to a 4WD track which makes for a half-mile of easy walking before veering right near a cairn for Fan Gyhirych’s summit ridge. On the flat top, I took a path veering left to the trig point (a rather forlorn thing in the middle of a puddle), turning right to the nearby summit cairn, then returning direct from there. Below the bwlch, there’s a choice; contour beneath the cairn on Fan Nedd, or rise back up to it. It seemed to me the direct path might have been affected by a landslip, and with very steep ground below, didn’t fancy it at all – not least as I was now in the middle of an hour’s rain. So, back up to the cairn. Well, helps the lung function.
Fan Fawr (2408ft) is only a mile from Storey Arms, the high point of the A470, but there’s a thousand feet to be climbed in that mile so it’s a bit of a lung-buster right at the start. The clear path helps – though the beeline to the next peak, Craig Cerrig-gleisiad (2064ft), is less clear, and I lost it briefly in the initial descent over steep ground and chose wrongly in the bwlch later on, though soon re-orientating myself; I wanted to avoid hitting the homeward path on the edges for as long as possible. The boggy bits were dry, which helped, and indeed I only joined the edge path shortly after the peak.
From here to the third of the three hills, Fan Frynych (2064ft), you’re in a national nature reserve, courtesy of the rare arctic and alpine plants which still hang on here. For the walker though, the peak is a superb viewpoint, perhaps the best for the whole of the sharp-edged hills of the National Park all the way from Fan Brecheiniog in the west to Pen y Fan in the east.
Briefly retracing my steps, the homeward path swept round in a quarter-circle above dramatic cliffs before turning south on a lovely path dropping consistently down towards the start point. Great exhilaration, and a fine way to end the evening.