Everest Base Camp Trek in May

If you want to challenge yourself and see the great Himalayas then this is the trek for you.  Following the classic route, you reach Everest Base Camp (EBC) at the foot of Mount Everest after passing by settlements, monasteries, forests, glaciers, and glacier rivers.  To name just a few of the highlights of this trek.

It is a strenuous trek, so challenging yourself is the right phrase.  You should be in good physical shape to do this trek.  Even if you think you are, increasing your exercise regime before coming to Nepal is the sensible thing to do.  Remember, unless you live at a high altitude (twice the altitude of Ben Nevis in Scotland, twice that of Mount Kosciuszko in Australia, or higher than Mount Elbert in the USA) you will definitely feel the difference between walking for 6 hours at 4,000m and walking for 6 hours at 1,000m.

So general fitness is extremely important.  Important too is having the right equipment for this trek.

Boots.  The ultimate in make or break when trekking.  Make sure yours are sturdy and already worn on several occasions.  

Clothing.  Layers are required for this time of year.  Yes, it is warm in the daytime but will be cold in the nights and early mornings.  A good sleeping bag is also important.

Positive outlook.  Very important if you are going to get through those rough patches – which could be part of the landscape or part of your physical makeup. We acknowledge not every hour of every day will be ‘wonderful’ on this trek.  Frustrations and achy muscles will set in. But at other times you will be overwhelmed by the beauty of the place and the fact you are there! 

Overview of Trekking to EBC in May

Peak trekking season is beginning to tail off even as peak climbing season really gets going.  

As the month grows older, the number of trekkers on the trails reduces, making it easier to get the accommodation you want.  

There will be a buzz around base camp as helicopters bring in gear for the climbers who are now making their way up to higher Camps on Everest in preparation for their final push to the summit.  Normally there are a few good ‘windows’ of weather, the main ones being around the end of May.  Anticipation is rising! 

Weather and Climate in May in the Everest Region

The weather is pretty good.  Around  14°C (57°F) in Namche during the day but it can still fall below freezing some nights.  Obviously, as you climb higher, the day temperature goes down.

Pros and Cons of Trekking to EBC in May

At the start of May, things are pretty much as they are in April, busy with lots of trekkers filling the teahouses.  As the month goes on, the numbers reduce making the middle to end of May a really nice trek on quieter trails but still with enough evening conversation to entertain you.  

There may be flight delays because of the weather.  Be patient – this is the Himalayas. 

With the warmer weather pay special attention to applying sun lotion and staying hydrated.  The high-altitude sun is extremely strong: even if it doesn’t feel like you are baking on a tropical beach – you are. Kind of.  Drink plenty of water for reasons that will become clear. 

Preparing for the Everest Base Camp Trek 

Always prepare yourself for a trek, no matter where or when.

Physical Fitness and Training

If you feel you can manage this trek, then great.  If you are unsure, you can work on your fitness level for a couple of months beforehand.  Still unsure?  We have plenty of shorter treks in the same region, some combined with helicopter tours.  We also have less difficult treks in other regions.  

Meantime, getting on with your exercise means hiking or walking every weekend and whenever possible.  Your swimming, aerobic classes, and gym are put to the test now.  Increase the number of times you go per week. 

Acclimatization and Altitude Sickness

Acclimatization is an essential part of every high-altitude trek.  On this trek, you will have an acclimatization day at Namche Bazaar and at Dingboche.  

On these days we suggest you keep active by doing short hikes in the surrounding areas.  

Why acclimatize?  Take a look at the mountaineers – they do not simply arrive and start climbing those big mountains.  For the best chances of submitting they have to go slow.  In the case of Mt Everest, it takes them weeks to acclimatize before the final push.   The same goes for you.  You are taking your body higher than it most likely normally lives, so it needs time to get used to the low level of oxygen in the air. 

Altitude sickness is a serious concern and should not be taken lightly.  

If you develop a headache, monitor it.  Mention it to your companion, guide, porter, or lodge owner.  It you then get overly tired yet are unable to sleep, lose your appetite, feel dizzy, or feel sick you might be suffering from altitude sickness.  For milder cases, the best thing to do is not go any higher or go down to the previous lodge if you are already quite high.  For example, if you are in Dingboche and feel dreadful, go back down to Tengboche or Namche.  If at a lower altitude, you still do not recover, consider giving up your trek this year.  There is a lot to see and do at Namche and its surroundings in case you have to retreat down but are well enough not to need an emergency flight out of the region. 

If you are trekking with a reputable agency, their guide should advise you on what to do.  Please take his advice.  If you are traveling solo, there are some health posts on the trails that can help you. 

No one knows why altitude affects some people more than others.  One person at 30 years of age, and who regularly exercises may get sick while their 55-year-old companion does not. 

Stay well hydrated by drinking a lot of water, soft drinks, and tea.  Do not drink alcohol at high altitudes.   

Do not miss your meals.  You need food for energy. 

Even if you feel you can whizz around the trekking route in record time.  Don’t.  That is both bad for your health and, didn’t you come to see the beauty of the mountains and experience life in the area? 

Take care if you have a headache.  Let others know.  Similarly, if someone else is suffering from a headache, take note and ask them repeatedly if they feel better or worse.  Keep in mind that altitude sickness can cause confusion when people think they are fine when they are not. 

If you are unwell, go down as spending a night at a lower altitude may be all you need to feel better and continue your trek. 

Remember anyone can get altitude-related problems, regardless of age or fitness. 

Essential Gear and Clothing

Here is an all-season round list of gear you will need.    Although it’s spring and warmer at lower altitudes it will still be very cold at night, in the early mornings and in the evenings. 

  • Sleeping bag and inner sleeping bag 
  • Trekking boots. Please wear them. Blisters can ruin your trek. 
  • Trekking trousers 
  • Thermal leggings and tops 
  • Trekking tops which are easy to put on and take off and Micromesh tops to soak up the damp.
  • Jackets (both down and fleece)
  • Warm socks
  • Gloves and a warm hat and bandana 
  • Sun hat for during the day
  • Trekking poles 
  • Moleskin for blisters
  • Waterproof cover for a daypack
  • Dry bags in several sizes for your dirty clothes and other items
  • Nepali rupees for hot water, charging your equipment, soft drinks, etc. 
  • Sunscreen 
  • Lip balm
  • Moisturiser
  • Water bottle 
  • Water purifying tablets or purifying straws for drinking water 
  • Sunglasses – so much better if they are large and/or wrap around
  • Camera
  • Whistle (in case of emergencies)
  • Medical kit (including extras of your regular medicines in case of delays)
  • Personal hygiene kit: toothpaste, toothbrush, shampoo, soap, sponge, towel, toilet paper 
  • Washing soap in case you really need to wash some clothes.  You probably won’t. 
  • Notebook and pen.  Drawing materials if you are arty. 
  • 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 park permit is obtainable at the Nepal Tourism Board Office in Kathmandu or in Monjo at the gate entrance for Sagarmatha National Park. More convenient at Monjo. 

Gaurishankar Conservation Area Permit is required if you are trekking in from Jiri at Nrs3,000 per person.  This is obtainable at the Nepal Tourism Board in Kathmandu.

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

Itineraries and Routes

All routes are open in May.  Do your homework before you come if you would like to visit any other region i.e. the Gokyo Lakes

Trekking with Helicopter Tour  in May 

Why not try our new 5,6,7,8, 9-day treks to EBC with a return journey taken by a helicopter?  This reduces the number of days you trek for, although 9 days on the trail is still a pretty good workout!  The weather is good for both hiking and flying and the views from the helicopter give you a whole new perspective on the region. 

Modifications Due to Weather Conditions

Unless you are really unfortunate, there should be no changes or modifications made to your trek because of weather conditions. Except perhaps flight delays.   

Major Stops and Highlights Along the Way

This is such a fabulous trek with many things to see on the way.  Different peoples to meet, different settlements to walk through or sleep in, and so many mountains! 

Flying into Lukla – The Hillary Tenzing airport – is always a thrill as it is one of the highest airports in the world

Hiking up to Namche Bazaar with an overnight at Phakding, crossing suspension bridges, and taking pictures of the welcome arch as you enter the Sagarmatha National Park proper. 

Spending two nights at Namche Bazaar for acclimatization with lots of time to explore the town and the villages around it.  

Visit the Tenzing Norgay Sherpa Heritage Centre newly opened at the equally interesting Sagarmatha National Park Visitors Centre. Learn interesting facts about Hillary, Tenzing, and a host of other adventures.  

Visit the Irish Pub in Namche for Guinness, a game of pool or to listen to some music.  Perhaps do a bit of dancing.  

Look for the bars that show mountain-related films daily in the afternoon. 

Seek out the bakeries, yes there are a few, for some cakes and other delicacies. 

If you are here on a Saturday, visit the Saturday market for local goods, handicrafts or just to see the locals haggle. 

Hike to Khumjung where Hillary set up a school for Sherpa children.  Learn some more interesting facts about this generous man post-climb. 

Go bird-watching for Nepal’s national bird, the Danphe. 

Hike to Hotel Everest View – which lives up to its name!  Enjoy a cup of tea on the terrace – after climbing up what seems like endless flights of stairs! 

Tengboche to meet cheerful monks.  You can take part in evening or morning pujas (religious ceremonies) if you are here at the right times.  But the views from the Monastery’s grounds are available 24/7 and are spectacular.  Please note, it is usual to make a small donation to the Monastery. 

Lobuche is a small settlement at 4,940m/ 16,210 ft. Here is the place where trekkers make their way to Everest Base Camp.  A simple settlement but so important on the trekking route. 

Kalapattar is also known as Everest View Point, for obvious reasons!  The views are better here than at base camp.   It is a bit of a climb to get to the top, 5,500m, but the panorama of mountains is spectacular. 

Everest Base Camp. Here you are, and it was worth the effort of getting here!

Major Highlight of the Month 

The climbing season continues and reaches its peak in May. Of course, there are expeditions climbing the many other mountains and trekking peaks in the region but all eyes are on Everest.   By mid-month, several expedition teams, with hundreds of foreign and Sherpa climbers are poised to climb higher as the weather improves.  

When you are at base camp, you will still see logistical teams at their own base camp.  But by now the climbers themselves will be up at higher camps waiting for that weather window. 

If you are there in the second half of May, keep your eyes on the news for information on successful summits or on those who have to return disappointed.   You may see some of the returning climbers although many will fly back down by helicopter.  Yes, the skies will be busy with helicopters at this time.  

Other Highlights of Trekking to EBC in May Include:

  • Sunset or sunrise from the top of Kalapattar.  It continues to be a major highlight on any trek in the Everest Region.  
  • Find out more about the past mountaineers at the new Tenzing Norgay Sherpa Heritage Centre in Namche.  This will be a ‘must do’ during acclimatization days from now on.  It opened on 29 May 2023, exactly 70 years after his and his partner’s success. 
  • Exploring Khumjung village to learn more about how Hillary paid back to the Sherpas after his success. 
  • It is always a pleasure to meet other trekkers in the lodges to share stories over dinner. 
  • The mountains.  Mount Everest in particular.  

Accommodation and Logistics for Everest Base Camp Trek in May 

Teahouses and Lodges During the Trek

Teahouses are the backbone of the treks in Nepal.  Yes, there are camping treks, or you can bring your own tent and do it all yourself.  But why bother when there are so many great teahouses (trekking lodges) in this region in particular?  Having been welcoming trekkers and climbers for decades, the folks in the Khumbu (the local name for Everest Region) have it sorted.

Accommodation is simple yet comfortable.  The food is great.  The staff and owners know what trekkers want and need.  Yes, you might have to pay for hot water or to charge your phone, but we need to realize how hard it is to transport goods and services up there. 

Do remember to bring around $20 a day (in local currency) to cover charging and a hot shower if you need one. And for some soft drinks and drinking water. 

Food and Water Availability

If you always wondered what Sherpas eat, now you can find out!  There is curry, Tibetan bread, salt tea, etc on the menu.  Along with toast, eggs, porridge, pasta, noodles, pancakes, and more.  For drinking water, boiled water is provided but you have to purchase it.  Bottled water is not available.  There will be soft drinks and beer.  We recommend you stick to the former. Alcohol dehydrates the body even faster at altitude and a hangover is just an accident waiting to happen on the rocky and steep trails!

Hiring a Guide and Porter 

If you are going it alone but want to take a freelance guide or porter you can ask around when you land at Lukla.  A good number of porters will be employed on the climbing expeditions but there should be a few who are working as only trekking porters.  But it is a good idea to research before you go.  

Safety and Travel Tips in May for EBC

Monitoring Weather Conditions   

There should be no problem with the weather on the trek in May.  If you are interested in following what is happening up there on Everest, then we can tell you that National Geographics has set up its own weather center – the Everest Weather Station Network.  For the weather where you are, you can put the setting for this station at its lowest (4,000m) to give you an idea of what is like at base camp and lower altitudes. https://everest-pwa.nationalgeographic.org/  

Coping with the Weather and Altitude

Above you will find our tips for coping with altitude.  The main thing is to acclimatize and be aware of any feelings of being unwell. 

Although the weather will be good and warm in May, it is better to pack for all eventualities! 

Travel Insurance and Emergency Services

Your insurance should cover up to 5,000m.  Read the small print carefully being buying it.  Rescue helicopters are available, but they will require proof of payment before they come out. This is not them being unreasonable, this is them seeing hundreds of people who require assistance.  They cannot be expected to make exceptions.  Being carried down in a basket is the alternative.  You may recall the Malaysian climber being carried down from the Death Zone in June 2023.  That was an amazing rescue which saved his life.  You don’t want to be in that position.  Actually, you would be in a basket.  Google Doko basket!  

But seriously, make sure your insurance gives you good coverage. 

Health Posts Along the Trail

In case you need it, there are medical facilities along the trails that help both locals and visitors.  As is normal, you will be required to pay upfront for any services.  

For simple injuries and medicines, you should be carrying a first aid kit along with any medicines you usually take. 

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

Himalayan Rescue Association (HRA), is at Pheriche and is manned during the busy spring and autumn trekking seasons by volunteer doctors.  It has been in operation since 1973, as a non-profit organization with the objective of reducing casualties in the mountains. Their main task is to prevent altitude-related deaths among visiting trekkers and locals.   They give a talk on altitude-related problems every day at 3 pm which you are welcome to attend.  As a non-profit, any donation you would like to give is also highly appreciated. 

The Mountain Medical Institute (MMI) clinic is found at Namche and Dingboche.  Please note the Dingboche branch is closed in the winter months, but will be open in peak trekking months, like May.  Staffed by doctors trained in the unique needs of people living and traveling at high altitudes, the clinic in Namche has a basic lab, EKG, and ultrasonography. Call: 985-2850021/ 981-3933179 / 984-1936205.

Be Responsible

Locals cannot deal with everything that happens to trekkers.  Be responsible for your own health and welfare and be prepared.  But accidents do happen, and help will be available when it can be.  

Embracing the Challenges of Trekking in May

Things should be good during May with no real challenges or hardships relating to the landscape or weather. 

Tips for Trekking in May

  • There will be fewer trekkers on the trails so enjoy the peace and quiet.
  • Mountains may be a little cloudy at times, we cannot do anything about that.
  • You may get to see some of the great names in mountaineers.  Don’t try to meet them as they will have their mind on other things.  Keep an eye out for any meet-and-greet events back in Kathmandu.
  • Plan well for your trip.  From your fitness to your day pack – do it right. 
  • Don’t rush from place to place.  You are there to enjoy the mountains, the landscapes, the locals and meet other trekkers.  
  • Do book your international flight some days after you propose to get back to Kathmandu, just in case of delays.  What’s the rush anyway?  Enjoy the rest of the country and be able to, at last, have that bottle of beer! 

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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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