Most people are discouraged from going to the highest mountain chain in the world in the winter. They think to go trekking in the Himalayas is crazy, suspecting it to be super cold. They couldn’t be more incorrect. Nepal lays in similar latitude as Cairo and Miami which closer to the Equator than the Arctic Circle. If you choose to go trekking in the middle hills with altitude ranging between 1000 meters to 3500 meters, don’t be surprised if the temperatures are in the high teens or even low 20s degrees Celsius – it can be warmer than the summer of some Northern European nations.
However, it pays to invest in right quality gear such as down jacket, a couple of fleece jackets, pants, base layers, warm hats, gloves, and sleeping bag; just naming a few essential types of equipment. It is better to have more than less.
It is one of the best-kept secrets that trekking in Nepal during the winter has many benefits. Gone are the days when it used to snow by the end of November or early December due to climate change.
It is good to dress up in layers, which you can ‘peel' one at a time when you start to warm/heat up as you begin trekking.
When we did our Annapurna circuit trek with Tilicho Lake in January 2018, we met both tourists and locals misinformed some trekkers whole. They were told that the higher villages and the Thorung pass were deeply covered in deep snow. The people who said these are highly likely to have done very little to no trekking experience themselves.
Benefits of Trekking in Nepal Himalaya during the winter.
For the same reason mentioned above, most people think winters in Nepal is freezing; some might even imagine most of the country is covered in snow. This couldn't be further from the truth. The colder weather keeps the clouds down longer, and even if the clouds form and rise in the afternoons, they sink quicker due to the cold than in the warmer months. This makes the visibility of the mountains clear for most of the day.
- The past two winters have been very clear like it used to be some 20-25 years ago.
- There will be a lot fewer trekkers on the trail and in the lodges if you go trekking to the famous trekking areas where there are lodges.
- You will be warm while hiking in the sunny weather – perhaps even sweating on uphill climbs.
- You could be the only trekkers in the lodge
- For the very same reason, the wifi works better in the hostels as fewer people logs in.
- You can use the internet better for weather forecast and temperatures
- There will be fewer people queuing for hot showers.
- Despite being winter, don’t be surprised by the greenery or flowers in bloom in the lower altitudes.
- The lodges that are open in the higher altitudes are left to the employees during winter, while the owners go for warmer places such as Kathmandu, Pokhara or Chitwan. The employees get to keep the profit from the sales of the food; they only have to replace what was used. This is a way for the employees to supplement their low salaries.
Can I do a high altitude trek in Nepal during winter?
You can certainly do a high altitude trek in Nepal during winter. The better time to do a high altitude trek during winter is in December and January. We do receive some precipitation for a few days every month. We have begun to receive heavier snowfalls during February and March rather than in the middle of winter.
Dangers/Inconveniences of trekking in Nepal during winter.
- Not all the lodges in the higher altitude will be open.
- Not all food on the menu will be available.
- The toilet floors might freeze from water/urine spillage in the higher altitude treks. If possible try to find toilets that are inside the main building; better still ask if they have a room with an attached bathroom. Minimize spillage in the bathroom to avoid icing.
- Toilets could be frozen/blocked due to the cold at higher altitudes.
- The paths through villages could be icy because the villagers have to let the public tap run all the time to prevent the pipe from breaking from freezing.
- The trail could be icy, and dirt can camouflage the ice.
- There could be very windy conditions in the higher elevations, be prepared.
- Despite having mentioned there is less snowfall in December and January these days, you might encounter rainfall in the lower elevation or snow – after all mountain weather can change without much warning.
Update: Winter of 2018/2019 The Nepal Himalayas experienced good rain and snowfall in December, January, and February like it used to 20 years or more ago.
We recently did a trek to Gokyo Lakes and Everest Base camp trek in December 2017
We even had a family do a trek in Late December/early January
Before writing this blog, yours truly finished the Annapurna circuit trek with Tilicho Lake in January
We operated a trek to Langtang – Gosainkunda in December/January 2016-2017
We did a trek to Annapurna base camp in December/January 2014-2015
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