For more pictures/info, see the page for the nearby Kandigan 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 Siyalan area, however, the map turned out to have a few inaccuracies. It marked Siyalan as having an elevation of 4123 m. My GPS/altimeter measured 13760 ft (4194 m). The Soviet military map gives an elevation of 4178 m. Other maps used by mountain climbers in Iran give a rounded figure of 4200 or 4250 m. The Iranian 1:50 000 map also failed to accurately show the nearby 4015 m Kandigan Peak (it only shows a bump on the ridgeline and contour lines of 3840-3860 m while in fact this is a very prominent peak that rises 150 m above its saddle with Siyalan). For these reasons, I have chosen to use my own measurement of 4190 m as Siyalan’s elevation.
Siyalan is a giant mountain that rises to the south of the Caspian Sea south of the coastal town of Shahsavar (Tonkabon) in the western portion of the Central Alborz Mountains of northern Iran. To the north, the slopes of Siyalan drop steeply down to the bottom of the Dohezar River Valley. In a few short Kilometers, this valley reaches the narrow strip of land between the Caspian Sea and the Alborz Mountains.
The distance between the summit of Siyalan and the Caspian shoreline (25 m below sea level) is 36 Km (22 miles). The distance between the summit of Siyalan and the point at the bottom of the Dohezar Valley where the elevation is 1000 m is only 12 Km (7.5 miles).
Siyalan and its nearby peaks create an impenetrable barrier to the moist air generated by the Caspian Sea. Every morning clouds begin to form over the Caspian shore. By the afternoon, fog often fills the valleys and rises up the northern slopes of Siyalan. These slopes are covered by a dense subtropical forest up to around 2200 m. Above that, lush meadows lead to alpine tundra and alpine lakes. When we visited the area in late June, snowfields seemed to continue at the bottom of the valleys down to around 2600 m. Traversing these snowfields that were at times nestled among steep rocky areas did present somewhat of a challenge. I was hoping to see the Caspian Sea from the summit of Siyalan but clouds and haze made this impossible. At night, however, the obvious line formed by the light of the coastal communities marked the sea shore very clearly.
To the south, the slopes of Siyalan drop down to the bottom of the Alamoot River Valley. A scattered growth of juniper trees cover these slopes up to an elevation of 2700 m. Shorter distance and less elevation gain mean that Siyalan is often climbed via its southern slopes. The starting spot is the village of Haniz (2150 m). A 13 Km (8 mile) hike with 2040 m (6700 ft) of vertical will get you to the top. Most hikers go on to descend the northern slopes which are much more scenic. From the summit of Siyalan, you will need to hike 20 Km (12.5 miles) and descend 3000 m (9850 ft) to reach the Asal Mahaleh Village near the Dohezar Valley.
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 details. Check out the page for Kandigan Peak for more photos.
Juniper trees on the southern slopes up to 2700 m.
Views From the Summit:
In a relatively flat area at an elevation of 3500 m, melting snow creates a series of Alpine Lakes. The summit of Siyalan can not be seen from this spot. A high point on its western ridgeline that can be easily confused with the summit, provides a dramatic background.
Every afternoon clouds from the Caspian sea roll up the slopes.
Between 3000-3500 m of elevation, you will find snowfields (in early summer) and alpine tundra.
In the upper 2000 m range beautiful meadows cover the slopes.
Lower Snow Fields
In early summer, snow fields cover the bottom of the valleys down to around 2600 m. These fields interrupt the trail and have to be crossed. At least one of them was steep and difficult to cross.
The first trees appear at around 2600 m.
After entering the forest, you will reach this beautiful canyon and hike along the river at the bottom of it.
The Forested Slopes
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).