The Everest Base Camp Trek, also known as the EBC Trek, is the best-known trek in the Everest Region. It is also very probably the best-known trek in Nepal. Over 40,000 trekkers reach base camp annually, so we know it is a dream of many people. However, before setting off you should know this is not an easy trek. Despite the numbers who achieve their goal of reaching base camp, and the wonderful photographs on their blogs, this is a strenuous trek and good preparation should be made before arriving. Needless to say, a good general state of fitness is required, as is proper gear and an acknowledgement of both the beauty and difficulties of the landscape.
Overview of Trekking to EBC in January
As you would expect, trekking in Nepal during the winter months is even more challenging. But the rewards are also immense. Being that it is ‘off season’ for trekking, the routes and teahouses (trekking lodges) are quieter; there is a stillness in the air you won’t find at other times of the year. Skies are clear, the snow is crisp – both on the mountains and underfoot and there are fewer flight delays as the weather is good for flying at this time. Flights may be less expensive at this time too.
On the other side of the coin, it is cold! You must be prepared for the cold and damp and some routes are not possible due to mountain passes being blocked by snow. At the same time, some of the higher teahouses will be closed because of the snow conditions. Those which are open may offer you the best room at a cheaper price due to a low number of trekkers coming through at this time. So do enquire, but do not haggle over a dollar or two with the lodge owner. Winter is hard on them.
We recommend you go with a guide in January because the trails will be different from those on your map or on signposts because of the closure due to snow. And existing trails may be hard to read if there is fresh snowfall overnight. A guide experienced in trekking in this region, and trekking in the winter months, is quite vital in January.
Weather and Climate in January in the Everest Region
In brief, during the day, the sunshine is warm(ish) and the temperature could reach 4℃ (39℉). At night, the temperature falls rapidly and may reach -17℃ (1℉).
Snowfall in January and its Impact on Your Trek
Rain is rare during this cold season but there may be occasional snowfalls. If there is heavy snow you may have to delay your trek by a day (hang out in the teahouse and update your journal/ blog). It is unlikely heavy snow will last more than a day at a time. Do remember snowfall may change the trails, from making it harder to see where to step, to closing some trails entirely. Be prepared to make changes to your itinerary as necessary. Again, this is where an experienced guide is vital.
Pros and Cons of Trekking to EBC in January
The number one advantage is that there are fewer trekkers around! You will have the trails to yourself. With fewer trekkers around, you will be able to get good accommodation and rates at the teahouses and be able to sit down with the lodge owner to have a conversation as they will be less busy. The scenery is even more majestic and awe-inspiring at this time, and with clear skies, your flight is less likely to be delayed due to incremental weather.
On the cons side – there are fewer trekkers around. So for you who like to share stories at dinner time, you might find this a bit off-putting. Some of the trekking lodges are closed during the winter as the owners head down the mountains to wait out the cold. There may also be fewer choices on the menu due to goods not coming in as frequently. But food will always be delicious and hot. You might have to extend your trek due to snowfall or amend your route. Taking advice from the lodge owner is highly recommended as they know the problems associated with snow in the winter. Travelling solo during the winter months is not recommended from a safety point of view. And it’s cold!
Preparing for the Everest Base Camp Trek in January
Preparation is always recommended when doing the Everest Base Camp Trek. But it is never more vital than when you are planning to trek during the harsh winter months.
Physical Fitness and Training
Get yourself into shape before coming to Nepal. Get that gym membership, go jogging, and lift weights at home. More importantly, take long walks or hikes in your local area, preferably involving hills. But realistically, no amount of jogging or lifting weights is going to prepare you for the high altitude and long walking hours you will encounter in the Himalayas, particularly in the Everest Region.
Acclimatization and Altitude Sickness
It is always necessary to acclimatize at high altitudes. On the Everest Base Camp Trek, it is normal to acclimatize by spending two nights in Namche Bazaar when you first arrive. There is plenty to do around this area and it is best to be active when acclimatizing. By active we mean walking for 3 or 4 or longer hours.
There is another acclimatization day at Dingboche. It is for your own safety that these acclimatization days are fixed within the normal trekking schedule if you are travelling with a guide or agency. If you are travelling alone we cannot stress enough how important it is to take these days, even if you feel you are doing fine and are overall very fit and healthy. It doesn’t matter how high your fitness level or stamina is, unless you are born and bred at high altitudes you must obey nature’s rules: the effects of altitude sickness can be lethal.
We have detailed information about altitude sickness on another page, but let us remind you briefly.
If you have a headache, take note of it. It might be more serious than you think. Mild symptoms are headache, loss of appetite, nausea, fatigue, inability to sleep, and dizziness. You can prevent or resolve these symptoms by acclimatizing (as EBC Trek itineraries suggest). If they get worse even after staying two nights where you are, then you should descend immediately to a lower altitude. The worst-case scenario is that it develops into High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) when you have mental confusion, and find balance and coordination difficult. The problem here is now with the mental confusion, you may not recognise you are very unwell. Another reason to trek with a guide or porter. HACE can very very quickly get worse and if untreated the result is death.
Yes, this sounds frightening. But it is a very real fact in high places such as the Everest Region. Almost everyone coming in will have a headache of some sort until they become used to the less oxygen in the air. A few will develop something more serious. And it doesn’t matter your age, fitness or previous experience of hiking.
Tips to Avoid Altitude-Related Illness
- Stay well hydrated.
- Eat well (even when not hungry).
- Do not go too high without acclimatizing first.
- Do not go too fast – it is not a race.
- Pay attention to your body, especially to any headaches.
- Do not be afraid to backtrack down to a lower altitude. This is not a weakness of character.
- Remember anyone can suffer from altitude regardless of age or fitness level.
Essential Gear and Clothing
Here is a list of the gear you need for the EBC Trek. It is a basic, all-season round list. In the winter it is important to have a four seasons sleeping bag, a thick down jacket, waterproof boots and trousers (for the snow), and warmer innerwear than perhaps you would need in the spring and autumn.
- Sleeping bag
- Trekking boots (waterproof)
- Trekking trousers (waterproof for winter and monsoon)
- Trekking tops
- Jackets (down and fleece)
- Warm socks
- Gloves (thin insulating)
- Warm cap
- Trekking poles (even if you don’t usually hike with them, they are great in the winter to test the depth of snow and pin-point the path more easily)
- Lip balm
- Thermal flask
- Water purifying tablets or straw
- Sun hat
- 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
- Notebook and pen
- Phone charger and power pack
Obtaining Permits and Documentation
You need two main permits to trek for Everest Base Camp:
Kumbu 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
Obtainable at the Nepal Tourism Board Office in Kathmandu or in Monjo at the gate entrance for Sagarmatha National Park. It is more convenient to purchase this permit in Monjo.
If you are trekking in from Jiri you will need an additional permit for the Gaurishankar Conservation Area at Nrs3,000 per person. 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. Money is payable in local currency only.
Popular Route Options in January
While it is possible to do the EBC Trek during January if you feel this is going to be too difficult for you or if you hear before you go, or when you arrive (Namche is a great place to get updates on the route situations) that things are tricky, you can switch things up and take a different route. For example, you can choose to do the Everest Base Camp Trek which takes 7 days and takes you from Lukla to Namche Bazaar then on to Tengboche before looping around to Monjo and back to Lukla. The highest point on this trek is Tengboche (3,956m). Scenery consists of alpine forest, the Dudh Koshi and Bhote Koshi rivers, the Tengboche Monastery and of course Mount Everest among other mountains such as Nuptse, Lhotse, Ama Dablam and Thamserku.
If you want something longer, the Gokyo Lake Trek might suit you. Taking 10 days this trek leads you to the beautiful Gokyo Lakes – yes there are six lakes in total! Not only can you see the wonderful high-altitude freshwater lakes but also the Ngozumpa glacier, one of the largest in the area. Mount Everest is of course on view as are Mt Cho Oyu, Mt Lhotse and Mt Makalu, among many more.
Modifications Due to Weather Conditions
But if your heart is set on the Everest Base Camp Trek in January be prepared to make changes due to the weather. As we said earlier, it is extremely unlikely (and unlucky) that it snows continually for days while you are on your trek. But it may snow for a day. In this case, you should be prepared to stay where you are. Please do not try to outwit nature and head out in the snowfall. If the snow is very deep you may need to change your route. Again, discuss this with your guide and/ or the lodge owner. It is likely they can also call ahead to check whether the proposed route is open.
Please ensure you DO listen to what your guide or lodge owner tells you. Do not be tempted to go out in heavy snow conditions. In May 2023 a porter was lost and subsequently died in a snowstorm. Sadly, he had returned to the teahouse the clients had used the night before when it started to snow but then ventured out again in the storm to try and regain his group.
Major Stops and Highlights Along the Way
If the trails are fully open when you visit in January the stops remain pretty much as they are the rest of the year round. That is:
Namche Bazaar for acclimatization, socializing and learning about the history of the Sherpas and Sir Edmund Hillary’s contribution to local communities. Although it is pretty much off-season in this month you can still get a glass of Guinness at the highest Irish Pub in the world! A snooker table, good music, a bit of dancing perhaps and reliable WiFi is also on offer. 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. Here you can find out more about, not just the first successful summit by Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, but about the earlier attempts.
Tengboche is the highest monastery in the region with fabulous mountain views and a serene atmosphere and friendly monks. Daily pujas (religious ceremonies) take place in the morning and evening, plus for any special events. Visitors are welcome to join in. At other times, you are welcome to light butter lamps for your loved ones. And of course, get some great shots of the mountains from the surroundings of the monastery. Be respectful when taking photographs – best ask first. Leaving a small donation is highly appreciated.
Lobuche is a small settlement at 4,940m/ 16,210 ft from where you make exploratory hikes 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. As the final stop, it is a busy little place in the main season, particularly in April as porters and Sherpas make their way to Base Camp for the start of the climbing season. The majority of the lodges here are very basic, perhaps because there is no other choice. A few lodges do provide Internet and, should it be required, oxygen.
- Sunset or sunrise from the top of Kalapattar. At 5,545m/18,192 ft, Kalapattar is truly the viewpoint of Everest.
- Spending time at Everest Base Camp. No expeditions will be here during January so you will have the place to yourself!
- Following in the footsteps of great mountaineers who came before you.
- The spiritual atmosphere of the area.
- The wonderful empty trails.
- Snow-clad mountains at their very best.
- The best possible accommodation at the best prices.
- Simply being there!
Accommodation and Logistics
Teahouses and Lodges During the Trek
Teahouse is the name given to the trekking lodges in Nepal. Mostly they are simple, family-run establishments. There are one or two more comfortable lodges in the lower regions of the trek but higher up you will get a simple twin bedded room with a shared bathroom. And great, filling food!
During the winter months, some of the lodges may be closed as the families head down the mountain until spring (and lots of trekkers) arrive. So be prepared to accept a different lodge if your first choice is not available.
There may be fewer items on the menu. Goods are difficult to transport into the region and so if there are fewer tourists, some items may not be brought in during the winter months. We do not recommend you eat meat or drink alcohol on the trek anyway. Great Sherpa dishes will always be available.
This can vary every year, but we know that if you are thinking to do the Everest Three Passes Trek or Gokyo Chola Passes Trek, it will be difficult as the teahouses are closed in Thagnak and Dhonjila (the settlements on each side of the Chola Pass). And they are also closed in the Lungden village, close to the Renjola Pass. Again, checking with your teahouse owner on what is open on the trail ahead is very valuable.
Food and Water Availability
There will be plenty of food available in any teahouse that is open in January. However, the menu might not be as expansive as when it is busy. With few trekkers coming in it could be the main chef is on leave or that some supplies are hard to get. However, you will never go hungry. Water is available and as usual, at a cost. Do not drink tap or river water! Instead, buy either boiled water from the teahouse or add your own tablets/ straw to FRESH water where it is available. There will be a charge for boiled water. Bottled water is now not available on most of the trekking routes in Nepal as thoughts turn to conservation.
Hiring a Guide and Porter
If you chose not to trek through an agency, it is usually possible to hire a guide and/or porter once you are in the Everest Region. In the busy season, it might be harder to find someone as there are a lot of trekkers coming through. In January it might also be challenging to find either a guide or porter as many will have gone downhill for the winter. Please do your homework thoroughly before setting off. Perhaps contact a few of the lodges in Lukla, Phakding or Namche about the situation with porters.
Safety and Travel Tips
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 easily on a smartphone. This works from Base Camp or above. The data given is for wind speed, temperature, humidity, and pressure in local time.
Aiming mainly for those actually on Everest (climbing expeditions), you might find more information relevant to your trek but again it is aimed at those on the mountain. Putting the setting to 4,000m may give you an idea of what is happening at lower altitudes.
Coping with Cold and Altitude
Please follow the advice we gave above regarding altitude. Namely, even if trekking alone, please ensure you take acclimatization days as per the ‘regular’ EBC Trek itinerary. Take more breaks if you feel you need to. It is never a race to reach base camp and back. Be aware if you feel unwell, especially if you have a headache that worsens or feel nauseous, unsteady or have palpitations. Altitude sickness is a very real threat.
As far as coping with the cold is concerned, make sure you have the correct clothes. Waterproof boots, several pairs of socks, waterproof over trousers for deep snow or snowfall, a thick down jacket and lots of layers. Don’t forget good gloves and hat(s). Be prepared with another set of similar clothing in case you get wet. If you find you are sweating with the exertion of the day’s hike, please ensure you change your undergarments (or anything else that might be damp) when you reach the lodge. You don’t want to get a chill due to wearing damp clothing.
Travel Insurance and Emergency Services
Please make sure your travel insurance covers trekking. And covers trekking up to (or over) 5,000m. Always read the small print! Helicopter rescues are available in case of incidents but they will not come out unless you can prove you can pay them ie through your insurance company.
There are some health posts at various points along the trail but bear in mind they may be closed in the winter season. If in doubt, talk to your lodge owner. Again, do not expect anything if you are uninsured. The locals see thousands of people pass through their communities and cannot be expected to financially help anyone in trouble. Having said that, they will, of course, do their best to assist you in an emergency situation with advice and making calls.
Health Posts Along the Trail
Please carry your own first aid kit for simple cuts, bruises and ailments. If you book through a reputable agency, your guide should be carrying one also.
For more serious issues, there are some health posts on the trails as follows:
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
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 organisation 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. More information is found here.
The Mountain Medical Institute (MMI) clinic is found at Namche and Dingboche. Please note the Dingboche branch 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 January
Trekking around the Everest Region and to EBC in January can be a wonderful challenge. If you feel you are up to the challenge you will have a very memorable trip! Embrace the winter and the snow and enjoy the fact few other trekkers are on the trails or have ever ventured there in winter.
The Unique Experience of Everest Base Camp in Winter
Definitely, this is a unique experience and one you should record fully to show the folks back home. If you have any questions on trekking to EBC in the winter, please do not hesitate to contact us for more information.
Tips for Trekking in January
- 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.
- Be adaptable – you may have to change your plans on short or no notice.
- Do not get frustrated and do not try to ‘push on’ against the advice of your guide or lodge owner.
- Plan ahead, get the proper gear, ensure your insurance will cover you, embrace the cold and enjoy the unique experience!
- And, wear sunscreen! Yes, even in the cold.
Alternatives to Everest Base Camp Trek
Everest View Trek
Do you want to view Everest but don’t have the time or don’t want to go at a higher altitude? No problem! You can choose a different route, Tengboche Everest View Trek (3,956m/12,979 ft).
In a total of 7 days, you pass through the alpine forest, Dudh Koshi and Bhote Koshi rivers, and the famous Tengboche Monastery to watch Mount Everest, Mt. Nuptse, Mt. Lhotse, Mt. Ama Dablam, and Thamserku.
Gokyo Lake Trek
Another alternative to Everest Base Camp Trek is Gokyo Lake Trek (5,357m/17,575 ft).
This 11-day expedition will take you to Gokyo Lakes in Gokyo Valley. With the view of the largest glacier in Nepal, Ngozumpa, you will also enjoy Mt. Everest, Mt. Cho Oyu, Mt. Lhotse, and Mt. Makalu.
Other treks you can do in January in Nepal
Ghorepani Poon Hill Trek
If you have only a week to spare, Ghorepani Poon Hill Trek is the best way to go! You can enjoy a stunning sunrise with the snow-covered mountain range (Annapurna to Lamjung Himal) from Poon Hill (3,210m/10,531 ft).
Mardi Himal Base Camp Trek
You can take a 10 days Trek route to Mardi Himal Base Camp (4,450m/14,599 ft). You can watch the amazing range of mountains like Annapurna, Dhaulagiri, Machhapuchhre, and Manaslu.