Kholeno (Paloon Gardan) Massif

Kholeno (Paloon Gardan) Massif

Page Type Page Type: Area/Range
Location Lat/Lon: 36.10000°N / 51.52000°E
Activities Activities: Mountaineering
Seasons Season: Summer
Additional Information Elevation: 14403 ft / 4390 m
Sign the Climber's Log


NOTE: Many sources use the name “Paloon Gardan” in reference to the Kholeno Massif. In this discussion, Paloon Gardan will be one of the peaks of the Kholeno Massif.
Kholeno Massif in Central AlborzKholeno Massif in Central Alborz
Detailed Map of Kholeno MassifDetailed Map of Kholeno Massif





Kholeno Massif sits in the geographic heart of the Central Alborz Mountains of northern Iran. After the 5671 m volcanic cone of Mt. Damavand and the peaks of the Takhte Soleyman Massif which rise to the high 4000 m range, Kholeno Massif (along with the nearby Dokhaharan Massif) contain the next highest peaks of the Central Alborz Range. The elevations of the peaks of the Kholeno Massif are in the low 4000 m range and culminate in the 4390 m summit of Mt. Azad Kooh (see Footnote #1 below). The massif can be captured in a box roughly 34 Km (east-west) by 23 Km (north-south) (Between 51:20:00 and 51:42:30 East, 36:00:00 and 36:12:30 North).
From Kaman Kooh

The massif is made of a number of interconnected ridgelines that are entirely above 3500 m in elevation (a good part of the ridgelines are above 4000 m). A quick look at the map of the massif reveals three NW-SE running parallel ridgelines and a diagonal one that connects the three parallel ridgelines (along with a few other side branches). Most of the peaks of the massif are high points that rise on the crest of the ridgelines. Identifying individual peaks along the length of these ridgelines can be arbitrary but with some diligence, the list can be limited to those points that are at least 50 m above their surrounding saddles (see footnote #2 below).
From Gavan Poshteh

Kholeno Massif is the source of the major rivers of the Central Alborz Range. To the west and south, the massif gives rise to the Karaj and Jajrood Rivers. These rivers drain into the central basin of Iran. To the east and north, you will find the headwaters of the Lar and Noor Rivers. These two rivers are the main tributaries of the Haraz River. On the northwestern corner of the massif, you will find the origins of one of the branches of the Chalus River. The Haraz and Chalus Rivers drain into the Caspian Sea.
From Jahneston

The mountains that rise to the north of the Noor River Valley block moist Caspian Sea air from reaching the Kholeno Massif. Except for the extreme northwestern corner of the massif, the lush Caspian Sea forests have not been noted in the Kholeno Massif. The valleys and the mountain slopes in the massif are covered by grasses and alpine tundra. Winter brings cold temperatures and heavy snowfall. Repeated winter avalanches create very large deposits of ice and snow at the bottoms of some of the valleys. These deposits along with the snow fields on the north facing slopes at higher elevation, survive well into mid-summer.




Below you will see pictures from the Varengeh Rood River valley on the west side of the massif and a branch of the Noor River on the north side of the massif.


Lower Valley

Lower Varengeh Rood
Lower Varengeh Rood
Lower Varengeh Rood
Lower Varengeh Rood
June 23, 2005
 Varengeh Rood...


Varengeh Rood River
Varengeh Rood Valley
Varengeh Rood
Sorkhab Peaks

Varengeh Rood
Varengeh Rood
Varengeh Rood
Mid Valley
Varengeh Rood
Varengeh Rood
Varengeh Rood
Varengeh Rood

(Branches to Kholeno & Paloon Gardan Peaks)

On the way to Kholeno Lake
Khers Chal & Farakhe No

From Varengeh Rood Valley

Varengeh Rood Valley
Point 3957 m
Varengeh Rood


Palvan & Paloon
Kholeno, Siyoonza & Asbichal
From Varengeh Rood
From Varehgeh Rood River
Varengeh Rood
Varengeh Rood
Varengeh Rood
Varengeh Rood River
From Upper Varehgeh Rood

(Branch to Sootak the Small)

June 23, 2005
June 23, 2005
 (L) The north...
June 23, 2005, 
Looking SW...
June 23, 2005
 Looking down...
June 23, 2005
 Azad Kooh 4390...

June 23, 2005
June 23, 2005
June 23, 2005
 The dense...
June 23, 2005
 Kharsarak from...
June 23, 2005
 L to R:...


At 3650 m, Gavan Poshteh Pass is one of the high passes of the Kholeno Massif. It sits on the lowest point of a ridgeline that connects the Kaman Kooh Group of peaks to the west to the Paloon Gardan/Narges Group to the east. Varenegh Rood River Valley is on the south side of the pass and a branch of the Noor River on its north side.

Kaman Kooh
Near West Narges

Gavan Poshteh Pass
Azad Kooh
From Gavan Poshteh Pass
From Gavan Poshteh

BRANCH OF NOOR RIVER (2600 m-3400 m)

Noor River
West Narges

Below Gavan Poshteh

West Narges
North Face Main Summit
West Narges
Below Gavan Poshteh
Yakhchal & Koheno
Branch of Noor River




Two picturesque lakes in the Kholeno Massif can be worthy destinations on their own or serve as ideal spots for the establishment of base camp: Kholeno Lake and Kaman Kooh Lake.


Kholeno LakeKholeno Lake & Kaman Kooh Peaks

From Kholeno Lake(L) Kherschal 4253 m & (R) Farakhe No 4230 m from Kholeno Lake
Kholeno Lake
Kholeno Peak & Lake
Kholeno Lake

Kholeno Lake sits at an elevation of 3830 m in a large alpine cirque that is surrounded on (almost) 3 sides by steep mountain slopes. The lake forms in late spring by the melting of the area snow fields and reaches its maximum size in late summer. It can be reached by starting at the 2450 m village of Varengeh Rood and hiking 21.5 Km up the Varenegh Rood River valley. From Kholeno Lake, you can have access to the 4387 m Mt. Kholeno the Great and some of its jagged nearby peaks. Kholeno Lake is one of the headwaters of the Varengeh Rood River.

Kholeno Lake
From Kholeno Lake
Kholeno Lakes


Kaman Kooh and its lakeKaman Kooh Peak & Lake

June 22, 2005
 The south...Azad Kooh & the outlet of Kaman Kooh Lake

Kaman Kooh Lake sits at an elevation of 3740 m in an alpine bowl created by the north slopes of Kaman Kooh (4234 m), Yakhchal (4194 m) & Sarmahoo (4165 m) Peaks. The lake is fed by large snow fields above it and drains to the north giving rise to the Nessen River (a branch of the Noor River). Kaman Kooh Lake can be reached by starting at the Nessen Village (2600 m) and hiking 12 Km up the Nessen River valley. From the banks of Kaman Kooh Lake you will have great views of Azad Kooh Peak (4390 m) to the north and Kaman Kooh, Sarmahoo & Yakhchal Peaks to the south.

Sarmahoo & Kaman Kooh LakeSarmahoo
Yakhchal & Kaman Kooh LakeYakhchal




Varengeh Rood Valley can be termed “Avalanche Alley”. If you visit the mid to upper valley in late spring/early summer, you will encounter one giant avalanche remain after another along the length of the river

North face West Narges
Varengeh Rood
Varengeh Rood


Varengeh Rood

Avalanche & Sorkhab Peaks
Varengeh Rood
Varengeh Rood
Base Camp
Tips & Avalanche-Filled Valley




Many north facing slopes and high valleys are large snow repositories. By late summer, however, most (but not all) of the snow melts away

Below Kholeno Lake
U-Shaped Valley

June 21, 2005
 Damavand 5671...
June 22, 2005
 Sarmahoo from...
Harzeh Kooh
Farakhe No
Summit from east

Farakhe No
Sarak Chal
Near Gavan Poshteh
June 21, 2005
 On the right...




Kholeno Glacier

Glacier & Rubble
Siyoonza & Glacier

Kholeno & Meeshchal

There seems to be a small glacier in a valley on the north slopes of Mt. Kholeno the Great (4387 m). Detailed information about this glacier seems to be non-existent. I am not a geologist and have visited the Kholeno area only in mid June when much of the north facing slopes were still covered by the remains of winter snow. This makes it difficult to distinguish a true glacier from a seasonal snow field (at least from far away). While many of the valleys in the Kholeno Massif do point to glacial activity in the distant past, the mentioned valley is the only one that raises the possibility of the existence of an active glacier.

Kholeno Peak




Those peaks of the Kholeno Massif that are higher than 3900 m can be divided into several groups as below:


Azad Kooh 4390 m
Peak 3910 m (see picture)

Azad KoohSouth Slopes
June 20, 2005, 
Azad Kooh...North Slopes
Azad Kooh is probably the highest peak of the Kholeno Massif (see footnote #1 below). “Azad Kooh” means “Free Mountain”. The peak is so called because unlike the rest of the peaks of the Kholeno Massif that are connected by high ridgelines to their neighboring peaks, Azad Kooh is a free standing mountain that sits on the north end of the massif away from the rest of the high peaks. The rocky walls on the north, east and west faces of Azad Kooh make it appear as an impenetrable fortress. Its prominence and distinctive shape make it visible from miles away.
ShadowEast Slopes
June 23, 2005
 Azad Kooh 4390...West Slopes

June 23, 2005
 The closer...Peak 3910 m

Peak 3910 m sits on the south side of Azad Kooh and is completely dwarfed by it. I have never heard or read anything about this peak.


Kholeno the Great 4387 m
Kholeno the Small 4350 m
Borj 4325 m
Harzeh Kooh 4268 m
Kherschal & Farakhe No 4253 m & 4230 m
Siyoonza 4208 m & Asbichal 4200 m (see picture)

KholenoKholeno West
June 18, 2005
 The closer...Kholeno East
SummitsKholeno South
These peaks sit in the center of the Kholeno Massif. They rise on the crest of an (almost) horseshoe-shaped ridgeline that surrounds the upper portions of the branch of the Varengeh Rood River that goes to Kholeno Lake. The closed end of the horseshoe is an alpine cirque that sits at an elevation of 3800-4100 m. Kholeno Lake sits on the low end of the cirque.
KholenoKholeno North
SummitHarzeh Kooh
From slopes of KholenoKherschal
West SlopesBorj
Siyoonza & AsbichalSiyoonza


Paloon Gardan 4256 m
Narges Peaks 4206m, 4103 m & 4073 m
Asbi Ow 3896 m & Rostam Chal 3865 m

North SlopesPaloon Gardan North
South SidePaloon Gardan South
June 21, 2005
 Looking east...Paloon & Narges

Near YakhchalNarges

This group rises in the easternmost part of the Varengeh Rood River valley. To the north and east Paloon Gardan & Narges form the headwaters of two of the main branches of the Noor River. To the south they tower above the upper portions of the Lar River valley. On the east side of Mt. Paloon Gardan you will find a high ridgeline that stretches 20 Km east to reach the Kabood Pass at the junction of the Dokhaharan Massif. This ridgeline gives rise to many other peaks and can be thought of as the backbone of the Central Alborz Mountains.

North face North NargesN. Narges & Rostamchal
West NargesW. Narges
Nahiyeh VillageAsbi Ow


Meeshchal 4253 m
Sarkharsang 4203 m (& sub-peak 3957 m)
Palvan 4126 m

Summit of MeeshchalMeeshchal
These three peaks rise on the crest of a ridgeline that runs NE-SW and connects Kholeno the Great Peak to the Paloon Gardan Peak. To the northwest the peaks give rise to the Varengeh Rood River and to the southeast they form the Lar River. On the northwestern side, you will find many snow filled valleys and bowls at elevations that exceed 3600 m.


Kaman Kooh 4234 m
Yakhchal 4194 m
Sarmahoo 4165 m
Koheno 4082 m (see picture)
Sootak the Great 3966 m (see picture)

The southern slopes of the Kaman Kooh Group drop steeply into the Varengeh Rood River valley. To the north, the peaks create a snow filled alpine bowl that houses the Kaman Kooh Lake.

Upper ValleySouth Slopes
June 21, 2005
 Yakhchal is...North Slopes
June 23, 2005
 (R) Kaman Kooh...Kaman & Yakhchal
June 23, 2005, 
(L) Kaman...Kaman & Sootak


Sarakchal Peaks 4210 m, 4152 m & 4124 m
Koloon Bastak 4156 m

Koloon BastakKoloon North Slopes
Northern face of SarakchalSarakchal North Slopes

The Sarakchal Peaks are connected to Mt. Koloon Bastak via a 7 Km long ridgeline that drops to a minimum elevation of 3830 m and is the southernmost ridgeline of the Kholeno Massif. The Sarakchal & Koloon Bastak Peaks along with their connecting ridgeline are well visible from the ski resorts of Shemshak & Dizin near the capital city of Tehran.

Koloon Bastak and the...Koloon South Slopes
(left) Koloon Bastak (4156 m)...Ridge from ski area
June 15, 2004
 The Peaks of...Sarakchal South Slopes


Dalkoli 4130 m
Bandalkoli 4118 m
Peak 4051 m
Nosom Boyder 3971 m

Bandalkoli & Peak 4051 mBandalkoli & Peak 4051
Varengeh Rood RiverNosom Boyder
Above Kholeno LakeBandalkoli & Dalkoli
From Gavan Poshteh PassBandalkoli & Dalkoli

Bandalkoli & its ridgelinesBandalkoli Ridgelines
On the way to Kholeno LakeBandalkoli Horns

The Dalkoli Group of peaks makes a ridgeline that separates the Varengeh Rood River valley to the north from the Velayat Rood River valley to the south. On the north slopes of these peaks, you will find large snow filled alpine bowls. Bandalkoli Peak creates rocky ridgelines to the north of it that give rise to impressive sub-peak horns.


Varzab Peaks (3 peaks, highest 4036 m, (see picture)
Jahneston Peaks (7 peaks, highest 3979 m)
Kharsang Kooh & Gizno 3930 m & 3910 m plus North Kharsang Kooh 3806 m
Khatoon Bargah 3877 m

These peaks make a ridgeline in the southeastern part of the massif that separates the Lar River valley to the north from a branch of the Jajrood River to the south. While Kharsang Kooh & Gizno are prominent rocky peaks Jahneston and Varzab are 10 peaks/high points that rise on the crest of the ridgeline and have been lumped together under these names.
June 18, 2005
 The Jahneston...Varzab & Jahneston
June 18, 2005
 (left)#1 and...Kharsang Kooh
June 17, 2005
 (L) Darreh...Khatoon Bargah



Sehchal & Sikno 3936 m & 3877 m

June 15, 2004, 
Close-up of...From Dizin
Sehchal/SiknoFrom Narges
Sehchal/Alam KoohFrom Dalkoli
Sehchal & Sikno (along with Shivar Kesh, Chal Gardan & Hezarla) create a group in the western end of the Kholeno Massif. The group rises above the junction of the Varengeh Rood River (to the north and west) with the Velayat Rood River (to the south and east). These peaks are separated from the peaks of the Dalkoli Group via the 3570 m Shivar Kesh Pass to the east. From the ski resort of Dizin, the southern slopes of Sechal appear as a notable triangular peak.


Sineza 3933 m

June 17, 2005
 Sineza Peak...Sineza South Slopes
DamavandSineza North Slopes

Sineza Peak rises on the crest of the very long ridgeline that goes from Paloon Gardan Peak to the Dokhaharan Massif. The other peaks in the vicinity of Sineza are in the 3700-3800 m range. Sineza sits in one of the remotest parts of the Central Alborz Mountains days away from any trailhead. It is only mentioned by those who do multi-week ridge-top “Grand Tours” of the Central Alborz Mountains (from Damavand to the Takhte Soleyman Massif).


Sorkhab Peaks 3905 m or 3792 m?
Sootak the Small 3845 m

SorkhabSorkhab North Slopes
SorkhabSorkhab East Slopes
SorkhabSorkhab South Slopes
SorkhabSorkhab North Slopes

The Sorkhabs are a couple of jagged peaks that rise in the northwestern part of the Kholeno Massif. The southern slopes of the Sorkhab Peaks are steep and are covered by brilliant reddish scree. To the north, the Sorkhab Peaks create walls below their summits. In contrast, Sootak the small are a series of very gentle peaks. The Iranian 1:50 000 map gives an elevation of only 3972 m for the highest Sorkhab Peak. The Russian map only shows one peak and gives an elevation of 3905 m. From all angles, the Sorkhab Peaks appear higher than Sootak the Small (whose elevation has been confirmed at roughly 3850 m by my own GPS and the map). This might be an optical illusion but I am now fairly certain that the Sorkhab Peaks are in the 3900 m range. These peaks separate the Varengeh Rood River to the south from a branch of the Chalus River to the north.

June 21, 2005
 The summits of...Sootak the Small
June 22, 2005
 L to R: Point...Sootak the Small




1) Azad Kooh Peak can be thought of as an independent peak or part of the Kholeno Massif. Older sources give a rounded figure of 4375 m for Kholeno the Great and 4355 m for Azad Kooh. The Iranian 1:50 000 map gives only contour lines of 4380-4400 m for Kholeno the Great and an exact figure of 4390 m for Azad Kooh (The 4387 m figure that I use for Kholeno the Great comes from the Soviet Military Map). My (barometric) GPS altimeter measured the elevation of Kholeno the Great at 4386 m and Azad Kooh at 4377 m. So which one is higher? Who knows, they are about the same.

2) There are no official (or unofficial) lists of the 4000 m peaks of the Central Alborz (or Kholeno Massif). The most detailed topographic information comes from the Iranian 1:50 000 maps with contour lines of 20 meters. Using such maps to identify peaks that rise more than 50 m above their surrounding saddles obviously has its limitations. In identifying the peaks listed in this page, I have also used information that comes from my own observations, pictures and measurements (with my barometric GPS altimeter). With few exceptions, the names of all peaks are as they appear on the “Guide Map of Climbing the Peaks of Central Alborz” by “Gitashenasi” Publications (a schematic cartoon-like map which is not to scale).

Getting There

See above links for individual peaks.

Red Tape

No fees or permits needed.

The Alborz Mountains are a protected area. Hunting, fishing or damaging the environment is prohibited.





Children refers to the set of objects that logically fall under a given object. For example, the Aconcagua mountain page is a child of the 'Aconcagua Group' and the 'Seven Summits.' The Aconcagua mountain itself has many routes, photos, and trip reports as children.



Parents refers to a larger category under which an object falls. For example, theAconcagua mountain page has the 'Aconcagua Group' and the 'Seven Summits' asparents and is a parent itself to many routes, photos, and Trip Reports.