Trekking in Nepal during winter months of December, January and February
Most people are discouraged from going to the highest mountain chain in the world in the winter. They think trekking in the Himalayas is crazy, suspecting it to be cold. They couldn’t be more incorrect. Nepal lies at a similar latitude as Cairo and Miami, closer to the Equator than the Arctic Circle. So if you choose to trek in the middle hills with altitudes ranging from 1000 meters to 3500 meters, don’t be surprised if the temperatures are in the high teens or even low 20s degrees Celsius than the summer of some Northern European nations.
However, it pays to invest in the right quality gear, such as a down jacket, a couple of fleece jackets, pants, base layers, warm hats, gloves, and sleeping bags, to name a few essential types of equipment. It is better to have more than less.
One of the best-kept secrets is 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 who misinformed some trekkers whole. For example, some locals told them that the higher villages and the Thorung pass were deeply covered in deep snow. The people who said these are likely to have done very little to no trekking experience.
Benefits of Trekking in Nepal Himalaya during the winter.
For the same reason mentioned above, most people think winters in Nepal are 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 they used to be 20-25 years ago.
- There will be many fewer trekkers on the trail and 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 same reason, the wifi works better in the hostels as fewer people log in.
- You can use the internet better for weather forecasts and temperatures.
- There will be fewer people queuing for hot showers.
- Despite winter, don’t be surprised by the greenery or flowers in the lower altitudes.
- The open lodges 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 food sales; 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 undoubtedly 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 inside the main building; better still, ask if they have a room with an attached bathroom. Again, 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 mentioning less snowfall in December and January, 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 as they used to 20 years ago.
We recently did a trek to Gokyo Lakes and Everest Base camp trek in December 2017
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 hike to Annapurna base camp in December/January 2014-2015