For more pictures/info, see the page for the nearby Siyalan Peak.
Elevation Note: Experience has proven to me that the most accurate maps of the Central Alborz Mountains are those with a scale of 1:50 000 produced by the Iranian armed forces. The elevations shown on these maps have generally agreed closely with measurements with my own GPS/altimeter. Other details (high points on ridgeline, valleys…) have also proven to be accurate. For the Kandigan area, however, the map turned out to have a few inaccuracies. It failed to identify the Kandigan Peak. Instead, it only showed a minor high point on the ridgeline with contour lines of 3840-3860 m. The Soviet military map shows a nameless peak with an elevation of “4000 m”. Most maps used by Iranian mountain climbers give an approximate elevation of 4050 m. My GPS showed an elevation of 13170 ft (4014.2 m).
Sehezar River carves a deep valley in the northwestern part of the Central Alborz Mountains south of the coastal town of Tonkabon where the mountains rise abruptly above the Caspian Sea. If you follow some of the branches of the Sehezar River, you can go from an elevation of 25 meters below sea level at the Caspian coast to more than 4000 m within a distance of 30-35 Km. Most of the 4000 m peaks of the area belong to the Takhte Soleyman Massif to the east of the Sehezar River (The 4000 m mountain with the shortest distance to the Caspian Sea is probably the 4412 m Kalahoo Peak. Some of its sub-peaks are even closer). To the west of the Sehezar River, you will find a series of peaks with elevations in the high 3000 m range. Three of these peaks exceed 4000 m. These include:
1) Siyalan 4190 m
2) Unnamed Peak 4050 m
3) Kandigan 4015 m
Kandigan sits to the west of Siyalan Peak and is connected to it via a 3870 m saddle. The northern slopes of these mountains drop steeply down to an elevation of 1000 m at the bottom of the Dohezar River Valley (a branch of the Sehezar River). Following the river north, will quickly get you down to the coastal plain. These slopes form a formidable barrier to the moist air that rises from the Caspian Sea. A lush sub-tropical forest covers the northern slopes up to an elevation of roughly 2200 m. The southern slopes see much less moisture and appear much drier. These slopes go down to the bottom of the Alamoot River Valley and are covered by a scattered growth of Juniper trees up to around 2700 m.
Kandigan is often climbed along with Siyalan in a multi-day hiking program. Shorter distance and less elevation gain, mean that the mountains are often climbed from the south. Most hiker, however, go on to descend the beautiful northern slopes. The starting place is the village of Haniz (2150 m) to the south. From there you will hike to the 3870 m saddle where you can set up your camp before climbing Siyalan and Kandigan. You will then descend the northern slopes down to the village of Asal Mahale (1250 m).
Unlike the summit of Siyalan which remains hidden from view from the beautiful northern slopes, the summit of Kandigan is often visible and provides a spectacular background for the foggy forests, lakes, meadows etc. on these slopes. This, in my opinion, makes Kandigan a much more photogenic peak than the higher Siyalan.
I was hoping to see the Caspian Sea from the upper slopes of these mountains, but clouds and haze blocked the view. At night, however, the obvious line created by the light of the coastal communities marked the coastal line very clearly.
Below you will find a brief description along with some photos of what you will encounter on the hike. Please refer to the “Climb South, Descend North” Route Page for much more info. Check out the page for Siyalan Peak for more photos of the area.
These pictures were taken on the road to Haniz Village.
Southern slopes below 2700 m
A scattered juniper forest covers the southern slopes up to an elevation of 2700 m.
Southern slopes 2700-3300 m elevation
Southern slopes 3300 m-3870 m saddle
The summit of Kandigan
Views from the summit of Kandigan
Northern slopes, alpine lakes
In a relatively flat area at an elevation of 3500 m, melting snow creates a series of alpine lakes. The summit of Kandigan is well-visible from here.
Northern slopes, alpine tundra
Alpine tundra seems to be most notable between 3000-3500 m of elevation.
Northern slopes, endless snowfields
In late June, snowfields seem to cover the bottom of the valleys from the 3870 m saddle all the way down to around 2400 m.
Northern slopes, fog/meadows
In the upper 2000 m range, beautiful meadows cover the slopes.
Northern slopes, canyon
After entering the forest, you will reach this beautiful canyon and hike along the river at the bottom of it.
Northern slopes, forest
For Haniz Village (south slopes):
Drive the Tehran-Ghazvin freeway roughly 100 Km to just before the town of Ghazvin and take the exit north to Rajai Dasht/Moalem Kalayeh. Take this road north up the switchbacks to an elevation of 2350 m and then descend down to the bottom of the Shah Rood/Alamoot River Valley to the town of Rajai Dasht (just below 1000 m). Turn east and follow the road up and down a long series of hills to Moalem Kalaye. Continue another 10 Km going beyond the junction of the road to Alamoot Castle until you reach near the village of Haranak (1400 m). Turn left (north) and follow another road roughly 10-15 more Km past the village of Atan to the village of Haniz (2150 m). When we were there in June of 2006, the piece from Haranak to Atan had been recently paved. Beyond Atan, the road was unpaved and somewhat rough in a few places. Total driving time from Tehran is about 5 hours.
For Asal Mahaleh Village (north slopes):
From Tehran, drive the freeway to the town of Karaj and take the Chalus Road exit. Drive this road north crossing the Alborz Mountains to the coastal town of Chalus (200 Km). Turn west and drive the coastal highway approximately 60 Km to the coastal town of Shahsavar (aka Tonkabon). Turn south going toward the Alborz Mountains and follow the road past the town of Ghal’eh Gardan until you reach Tosa Kalam. Left goes to the Sehezar Valley and right to the Dohezar Valley. Turn right and drive to a place called Kelishem. Turn left and drive up a dirt road 7 Km to the town of Asal Mahaleh (distance from Shahsavar is no more than 30 Km or so).