Everest Base Camp Trek in December

The Everest Base Camp (EBC) Trek is both extremely beautiful and extremely popular.  So popular in fact that over 40,000 trekkers come here annually.  Then there are the climbers who number in the hundreds.  But let’s talk about trekking…

This is a strenuous trek that will stretch you mentally and physically.  So be prepared for a workout! The trail varies from lowland pine forests and farmlands to highland rocky outcrops and some serious uphill scrambling.  For this reason, we advise anyone coming to step up their fitness routine in the months prior.  

As well as being physically challenging, it can be quite overwhelming mentally too.  Seeing history role out before you in the form of the impact the early climbers made on the area, meeting wonderful Sherpa people, knowing so many have died in pursuit of the summit, walking through Buddhist landscapes and meeting Buddhist monks, all of these things can easily overwhelm trekkers.

Dealing with these aspects is a very personal thing but sharing the experience with others, on the trail or in the trekking lodges helps keep things real.  As for the physical comforts, prepare your pack well with warm clothing, comfortable boots, and all you need to complete an almost two-week trek in the Himalayas.

Overview of Trekking to EBC in December

December will be colder than November but not as cold as January. Winter is only beginning to settle in.  It is off-season for trekking in this area and the trails will be quieter.  It may be possible to get a good off-season rate on accommodation (but not on menu prices) or at least get the best room in the house.  

Some of the high passes will be closed due to snow.  If you are thinking of the likes of the Three Passes Trek, check carefully first.  There may be snow, particularly as the month goes on, but there should be no rain.  We would suggest this is not a month for novice trekkers to be going it alone.  Even seasoned trekkers should take extra precautions on the trails as there may be snow making it slippery and/or hard to see the trail and parts of the route may be closed due to snow. 

Weather and Climate in December in the Everest Region

Temperatures at Namche Bazaar should be around 7oC (44°F) in the day -6oC (21oF) at night.  During the day the temperature is quite fine for hiking but in the early mornings and evenings and during the night it will be extremely cold.  Plan accordingly.

There will be snowfall on the higher trails. But it will not rain, and the mountains look fabulous sitting against the clear blue skies and with a fresh covering of snow.  

Snowfall in December and its Impact on Your Trek 

If the snow is heavy it may delay your trek.  Heavy snow is unlikely to last more than one day at a time, but some trails may become unrecognisable or blocked as a result. Plans may have to change without warning.  It is, for this reason, we suggest taking a guide with you during this and other winter months. 

Pros and Cons of Trekking to EBC in December

With fewer trekkers on the trail, you can enjoy the wilderness.  The mountains will be dazzling among the clear skies.  With flights less likely to be delayed due to bad weather and accommodation at a lower price it seems like this is the time to come.  But do remember what we said earlier, snowfall makes it difficult to read the trail and winter is not a time for novices or beginners. 

Build contingency plans in case of delays due to snowfall.  Do not book your international flight for your intended arrival day back in Kathmandu.  Leave a little wiggle room! 

You should always be prepared when trekking in the Himalayas, but even more so during the winter. 

Preparing for the Everest Base Camp Trek in December 

Physical Fitness and Training

It’s surprisingly hard to prepare for high-altitude trekking.  While it’s fine to increase your fitness routine and go hiking every weekend, there are no classes which prepare you for high altitudes and a reduced amount of oxygen in the air. 

Acclimatization and Altitude Sickness

Built into all itineraries issued by local trekking companies are acclimatization days at Namche Bazaar and Dingboche.  There may be some others if you join a group which has requested a slower pace.  These acclimatization days are there for a reason – to do exactly what they say – prepare your body to get used to the higher altitudes and lower rates of oxygen. 

Altitude sickness is when someone becomes sick due to the lack of oxygen in the air.  If they do not acclimatize or if they go too fast they won’t give their bodies enough time to get used to the rare air, resulting in headaches or worse.  

If you have any symptoms of altitude sickness, the best idea is to go down in altitude.  This should help recovery very quickly. If this doesn’t work or the symptoms get worse, go lower still.  We have listed out some health posts on the trails which will be able to give you advice – please be aware they are not all open in December. 

  • Stay well hydrated. Drink plenty of water even if it is cold out.  Carrying a flask to keep the water warm will help
  • Eat well (even when not hungry). Energy bars will do the trick if you can’t face a proper meal during the day. But breakfast and dinner are a must to maintain your health. 
  • Do not go too high without acclimatizing first, even if you feel fine.  
  • Do not go too fast in terms of height or speed of walking. 
  • Pay attention to your body, especially to any headaches. It’s nature’s way of telling you there is a problem. 
  • Do not be afraid to backtrack down to a lower altitude.  This is standard procedure, and it works. 
  • Remember, anyone can suffer from altitude and it isn’t a sign that you are unfit.

Essential Gear and Clothing

Here is a basic, all-season list of the gear you need for the EBC Trek.  It is important to have a four seasons sleeping bag for the cold winter months, as well as a thick down jacket, waterproof boots, and waterproof trousers (for the snow).  Warm innerwear should also be used in the winter months. 

Four-seasons sleeping bag

  • Trekking boots (waterproof) 
  • Trekking trousers (waterproof over trousers too)
  • Thermal leggings and tops 
  • Trekking tops
  • Jackets (both down and fleece)
  • Warm socks
  • Gloves (thin ones for inside, and thicker waterproof ones for outerwear)
  • Warm cap and a sun hat for the warmer days
  • Trekking poles 
  • Sunscreen – even in the winter
  • Lip balm
  • Moisturiser
  • Thermal flask (great for drinking warm water or tea between teahouses)
  • Water purifying tablets or straws for drinking water 
  • Sunglasses 
  • Camera
  • Whistle (in case of emergencies)
  • Medical kit (including extras of your essential medicines in case of delays)
  • Personal hygiene kit: toothpaste, toothbrush, shampoo, soap, sponge, towels, toilet paper 
  • Washing powder if you feel it necessary to wash anything.  Will it dry? 
  • Notebook and pen
  • Phone charger and power pack

Obtaining Permits and Documentation

You need two main permits to trek in the Everest Region:

Khumbu Pasang Lhamu Rural Municipality Entrance Permit: Nrs 2,000 per person.

Obtainable in Lukla or Monjo.  Not available in Kathmandu.

Sagarmatha National Park Entry Permit: Nrs 3,000 per person

The parking permit is obtainable at the Nepal Tourism Board Office in Kathmandu or in Monjo at the gate entrance for Sagarmatha National Park, which is probably more convenient. 

If you are trekking in from Jiri you will need an additional permit for the Gaurishankar Conservation Area at Nrs3,000 per person.  Oddly, this is only obtainable at the Nepal Tourism Board in Kathmandu.

Required documents for trekking permits: you will need a copy of your passport for all.  For the Gaurishankar Conservation Area Permit, you will also need to provide two passport-sized photographs.  Pay in local currency.

Itineraries and Routes

As the month progresses there will be more snow days.  Some of the high passes will be closed and you should check before venturing over them.  You can get some information in Namche about the trails higher up.  Or ask anyone on their way down.  If things are closed or the snow is too deep, you can always do a shorter trek by going, for example, from Namche to Tengboche, then back to Monjo and Lukla.  Be aware you may need to change your plans and don’t be disappointed if you have to.  

From Tengboche, you will get all the great views of the biggest mountains, and you can always spend longer in Namche enjoying its environment, and its, well if not exactly nightlife, let’s say evening life!  Hiking over to Hotel Everest View for great views of Everest and surrounding mountains is also a great way to spend time. 

Trekking with Helicopter Tour  Open in December

With the dry days and clear skies, this is a great time to combine a helicopter tour with a short trek, or just do the half-day helicopter tour to EBC on its own.  These shorter treks can give you the best of the EBC Trek with fewer days on the actual trail.  

Modifications Due to Weather Conditions

Be aware plans may have to change during the winter months.  If it does snow, wait it out where you are.  Do not attempt to trek through heavy snow – things change too fast in the mountains for this to be a safe option.  Your guide or lodge owner can call ahead to see if the next part of the trail is currently open.  Listen to those who are familiar with the area!

Major Stops and Highlights Along the Way

Even if you get delayed or have to give up part of the trek due to snowfall, there is still plenty to see and do in December. 

Namche Bazaar for acclimatization, socializing and learning about the history of the Sherpas and Sir Edmund Hillary’s contribution to local communities. 

  • The Irish Pub has Guinness. And a snooker table and music.
  • Explore the newly opened (on the day of the 70th anniversary of the first summit of Everest) Tenzing Norgay Sherpa Heritage Centre at the Sagarmatha National Park Visitors Centre. Find out all about earlier attempts to summit Everest and about the first successful summit by Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.  
  • On Saturdays, there is a market with local goods and handicrafts.  We are unsure if this is open during the winter – so do let us know!
  • Hiking to Khumjung to visit the school and health post that Hillary opened as a thank-you to the Sherpas is a wonderful way to spend your acclimatization day.  
  • Look out for the Danphe, Nepal’s national bird, and Wild Himalayan Tahr (goats).
  • Hike to Hotel Everest View for great views of Mt Everest. 

Tengboche is the highest monastery in the region and here you can interact with Tibetan Buddhist monks.   You can even join a puja (religious ceremony) in the morning or evening.  Or light some butter lamps for your loved ones at home or who have passed away. Be respectful in the monastery itself and ask before taking photographs.  A small donation to the monastery is much appreciated. 

Lobuche is a small settlement at 4,940m/ 16,210 ft from where you trek to Kalapatthar and Everest Base Camp.  It is the last overnight stop for trekkers on the way to Everest Base Camp and lies near the Khumbu Glacier.  However, the lodges here may be closed in the winter months.  Ask ahead. 

Major Highlight of the Month 

There are no festivals or special events during December in the Everest Region.  At the start of the month, you may see climbers making their way back down the mountain after their Everest summit attempt.  But mostly they will have already gone, leaving their base camp looking a bit like a ghost town.  

The major highlight has to be the clear skies and less busy trails. If you are there over Christmas there will be some low-key celebrations for foreign visitors in Namche. 

Other Highlights of Trekking to EBC in December Include:

  • Sunset or sunrise from the top of Kalapattar. It is always beautiful and at 5,545m, Kalapattar is truly the viewpoint of Everest.
  • Spending time at Everest Base Camp.  
  • Follow in the footsteps of the great mountaineers and check them out at the new Tenzing Norgay Sherpa Heritage Centre in Namche. 
  • The spiritual atmosphere of the Himalayas and meeting monks.
  • The empty trails and quiet lodges. 
  • Snow-clad mountains – great photographs! 
  • The chance to get the best accommodation at the best prices.
  • Searching for the Yeti?

Accommodation and Logistics 

Teahouses and Lodges During the Trek

Teahouses are the name given to trekking lodges throughout Nepal.  In the Everest Region, as well as other remote regions, they are very basic and simple family-run guest houses.   Usually twin beds, some sort of blanket (which is why it’s important to have your own sleeping bag) and shared toilets.  There are some nicer hotels at lower altitudes which you can also check out if you have the budget. 

There will be a charge for hot showers and charging electronics – around $3 a time. 

During the winter some teahouses will be closed as the family and staff head out of the mountains for the winter.  If the lodge you want to go to is closed, do not be surprised, just find another one.  In some areas, such as Thagnak and Dhonjila on each side of the Chola Pass all the lodges will be closed.  Near the Renjola Pass Lungden village will also be closed to trekkers.  So, if you are thinking of the Everest Three Passes or Gokyo Chola Passes treks, you will have to come in a different season. 

Food and Water Availability

There will be plenty of food available in any teahouse that is open in December, but the menu may be less extensive than in the busy seasons.   Drinking water is available in the form of boiled water which you have to pay for.   If you have tablets/straws and IF you can find clean and fresh water, this will be cheaper.  While it might be tempting to melt down snow, you just never know who or what has been on that snow!  

Hiring a Guide and Porter 

If you chose not to trek through an agency please consider hiring a local guide or porter who knows the trails, is familiar with the trails in winter and can navigate the language for you.   However, it might be difficult to find a porter/ guide in December as they also head out of the mountains until the main tourist season starts again.  Do your homework before arriving. 

Safety and Travel Tips in December

Monitoring Weather Conditions  

Enabling climbers on Mount Everest to easily access data from the Everest Weather Station Network. National Geographic has created a low bandwidth, near real-time site to display the latest weather data. This works from Base Camp or above which might not help you on the lower trails. However, if you check the base camp setting it may give you an idea as to what is happening.  Lodge owners may be able to help regarding weather as they have lived in the area for decades.  The National |Geographic site is  https://everest-pwa.nationalgeographic.org/  

Another site which is also catering for climbers on which you might find more information relevant to your trek is https://www.mountain-forecast.com/peaks/Mount-Everest/forecasts/8850 

Coping with Cold and Altitude in December

Altitude tips are given above.  It is vital to pay attention to both the tips and your body, particularly if travelling alone.  Please acclimatize even if you feel you do not have to.  It will be particularly hard going to trek in the winter when there is snow on the ground, it is very cold and can be slippery in places.  Please note if you feel unwell and act on it.  Altitude sickness is a real threat. 

Having the correct winter clothing will make or break your trek.  Waterproof boots and clothing are essential.  A thick down jacket and layers are also important.  

Travel Insurance and Emergency Services in Everest in December

Please make sure your travel insurance covers trekking up to 5,000m by going through the small print thoroughly before you sign on the dotted line.    Helicopter rescue is available only to those who can prove they can pay for it.  It’s a hard fact of life. 

There are some health posts at various points along the trail but they may be closed in the winter, including December.  If you feel really ill, talk to your lodge owner who has experienced this before, but they can only do so much.  

Health Posts on the Trails 

Himalayan Sherpa Hospital, at Phakding, opened in November 2022 offering outpatient and emergency services to locals and visitors in its 15-bed facility. More information can be found here http://www.himalayansherpafoundation.org/project/himalayan-sherpa-hospital-in-phakding/

Himalayan Rescue Association (HRA), is at Pheriche but is manned and operational only during peak seasons. It will be closed in December.  More information is found here https://www.himalayanrescue.org/

The Mountain Medical Institute (MMI) clinic is found at Namche and Dingboche.  Note: the clinic at Dingboche is closed in the winter months.  Staffed by doctors trained in the unique needs of people living and travelling at high altitudes, the clinic in Namche has a basic lab, EKG and ultrasonography. Call: 985-2850021/ 981-3933179 / 984-1936205.

Embracing the Challenges of Trekking in December

We do not recommend trekking around the Everest Region and the Everest Base Camp Trek in December, certainly not late December.  If you have prior experience of trekking in remote and snowy places and are determined to do it, please take an experienced guide with you.  There will be few trekkers on the trails, which may be a plus, but also could be disconcerting if you run into any problems. Many lodges are also closed, also worrying if you have not done your homework in advance.  It will be extremely cold, be prepared for that.  And lodges do not have heating in the sleeping rooms.  The Alps it is not. 

The Unique Experience of Everest Base Camp in Winter

Should you decide to go ahead, this is a unique experience and one which you will remember always.  

Tips for Trekking in December 

  • The main tip we have is to stay safe by taking a guide and/ or porter who is experienced in trekking this region in this season.   The trails can and will change if there is snowfall.  There is no guarantee trails will be open tomorrow even if they were open today. 
  • Be adaptable – you may have to change your plans at short or no notice.  This is something which is easier to do if you have an experienced guide with you. 
  • Do not get frustrated and do not try to ‘push on’ against the advice of your guide or lodge owner.  In May of 2023, a porter was separated from his group by a snowstorm.  He did reach the previous night’s lodge but decided to push on through the snow.  Unfortunately, he did not make it. 
  • Planning and proper gear are everything! Insurance is also up there in the top three ‘must haves’.
  • Be prepared, mentally as well as physically for the cold.  

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Article by Pradeep Guragain

Pradeep is the co-founder of Magical Nepal. He was born and bred in Nepal and is a seasoned hiker and rider.

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