Mt. Tochal is an integral part of the city of Tehran, where urban and alpine meet.
Tehran is a giant city that is home to more than 13 million people. This crowded city has been blessed with an awesome skyline. On a straight line, the 3964 m summit of Mt. Tochal is only 7 Km away from the northernmost neighborhoods of Tehran. At home, at school and in the office, all you have to do is look out the window to get a glimpse of this great mountain!
Mt. Tochal marks the southern boundary of the Alborz Range at Tehran’s longitude. It rises over a sloped plain where the city of Tehran is located. The city ranges in elevation from around 1800 m at its northern end (where sprawl has driven the neighborhoods up the slopes as far as possible) down to1000 m at the southern end (where it approaches the margins of the central desert of Iran). The summit of Mt. Tochal is the highest point along the length of a 12 Km long ridge line that is entirely above 3500 m (much of this ridge line is higher than 3700m). While the eastern 8 Km of the ridge line runs east-west and looms directly above northern Tehran, the western 4 Km takes a northwest-southeasterly direction and its view from north Tehran is blocked by lower peaks such as Palang Chal (3520 m) and Doshakh (3045 m).
On the most famous route to Tochal summit, there is one of the oldest equipped shelter in Iran; Shirpala shelter. It is situated at the elevation of 2750 meters above sea level and is accessible via a route passing through Sarband, Pas-Ghaleh and Abshar-dogholu. It usually takes 3 to 4 hours to ascend to mount Tochal from this shelter. This shelter was made by Iranian Mountain Climbing Federation with the help of Iranian Boy Scout Association. The shelter has some basic facilities such as restaurants, snack bars, few private rooms and two public dormitories. Also in folklore it is believed that Kai Kobad, mythical Iranian king had lived in a fort located in Shirpala before ascending to the throne with the help of Rostam another Iranian mythical figure.
Besides the official summit, other peaks/high points can be defined on the crest of the ridge line. The most notable of those is the summit of Mt. Shah Neshin (3870m), 3.75 Km to the west of Tochal summit.
From mid autumn to mid spring, the higher slopes of Mt. Tochal (say above 3000 m) are covered by a thick blanket of snow. Although in winter it does snow in Tehran, the snow usually melts after a few days of sunshine. The same is true for the south-facing slopes of Tochal below 2400 m. Patches of snow stay on the higher slopes well into early summer. The sight of snow can be an open invitation to those who wish to escape the 35 degrees C temperatures of Tehran’s summers. From mid summer through early autumn, the mountain appears brown and barren.
Several hiking trails start in the northern suburbs and climb the mountain to various elevations. West to east: Darakeh, Telecabin, Darband, Kolakchal and Darabad. Darband offers the most direct route to the summit. Except for the Telecabin, the rest of the trails follow tree-lined mountain streams at the bottom of valleys where trailside cafes provide a place to rest and enjoy refreshments. During the recent years, mountain hiking has become much more popular. On weekends, scores of people jam-pack the trails. Rock climbing opportunities are also available in many areas. The most famous of which, the Bande Yakhchal and Kolak Chal Walls. Bande Yakhchal is a huge rocky outcropping that sits to the east of the Darband Valley. It is a few hundred meters high and reaches a top elevation of 3120 m. Kolak Chal Wall, located above the Kolak Chal Shelter, has an elevation of 3340 m on its top. Both of these impressive walls are well-visible from Tehran.
An 8 Km long gondola line (Telecabin) that goes from an elevation of 1900 to a point on the crest of the mountain 3740m was completed in the late 1970s. At the time, it was claimed to be the world’s longest gondola line. There are several ski lifts around the main line: a few over the south-facing slopes near the Gondola’s 5th station (2935 m) and two or three over the north-facing slopes near the top station where a hotel has also been built (the higher ski lift goes up to around 3900 m in elevation). The ski season on the top station is said to last until June.
Typical Trip to Tochal
Day no1: Arrival to Tehran, short visiting the city and preparation, sleep in a hotel.
Day no2: Drive to Darband (the best-known access point of Tochal mountain) at the north of Tehran, trek to the Shirpala shelter 2850m for about 3 hours, short acclimatization trek after lunch up to 3400m, descend to the shelter, overnight in the shelter.
Day no3: Trek to the summit of Tochal (3960m) for about 4 hours, descend to the shelter, head back to Tehran, sleep in a hotel.
Day no4: Visit Tehran sights including Tehran traditional Bazaar, Sa’d Abaad castle (house of royal court), Milad Tower (the highest tower in Iran), Jamshidieh park (the great local park at the foot of Tochal peak), holy shrine located in northern part of Tehran and etc, flight back home.
The service normally includes the following:
- all transfers
- permit fees
- full board in the mountain (breakfasts, lunches, dinners and everyday lunch box during the way)
- 1-night stay in the shelter
- an experienced guide