Like every year, trekkers are again making a rookie mistake this winter.
They are completely missing out on trekking in early December and choosing the peak holiday season (late December) for a winter experience. They are under the impression that late December is what makes for the best winter experience.
And that’s such a tragedy!
Not many trekkers know this, but early December offers one of the most unique winter experiences.
I understand that many are concerned about the lack of snow and not getting leaves from office.
While you cannot do much about the leaves, for other issues, you have your answers. Read on.
Reason 1: You get snow!
It’s a myth that you do not find snow in early December.
"Though not much, we start getting the first bouts of snow in mid-November. In early December there is a good deposit of snow, especially in the upper reaches above 10,000 feet, but not the thick heavy blanket. In these settings it is better to go on a trek in early December," shares Akshay Upreti, who has been a slope manager in many of our winter expeditions.
Explaining the thought he adds, "Waiting for peak winters means risking instances of heavy snowfall which could disrupt your trek. If you ask me, I would prefer to trek in a period where there has been a basic amount of snowfall and chances of getting a clearer sky are higher. And for me, late-November and early-December is that period."
Last year, the Kuari Pass trek received its first snowfall as early as October. The frequency of snowfall gradually increases by December. By early December, most treks have a good dusting of snow in the higher reaches.
But this snow is not deep. Between snowfalls the snow melts quickly exposing the vibrant colours of autumn. And that makes for some of the most beautiful and unique sights in the Himalayas.
Reason 2: A higher success rate
Winter treks are popular for sprawling white landscapes. But on the flip slide, too much snow makes it difficult to complete the trek.
Heavy snowfall can disrupt the trek. And it could take days to open the route again. Unfortunately, chances of a heavy snowfall increase post-mid-December. This is because the Western Disturbances start to take a more defined shape in the later part of December.
Under circumstances when it snows heavily, it is normal to change routes and campsites, moving to a more compatible route. Sometimes trekkers even have to return to the base camp without completing the trek.
But the situation is not so in early December when winter is just beginning to set in.
A slight dusting of snow in early December at the Khorurai campsite of Brahmatal. Photo by Nitesh Kumar
“The probability that you would complete the trek in early December is much higher. You don’t get big amounts of snow on the ground. This doesn’t hamper your trek,” says Arjun Majumdar, Founder-CEO, Indiahikes.
In fact, early December offers a perfect introduction to winters in the Himalayas if you are new to trekking.
Reason 3: The weather is drier, more comfortable
Another aspect that works in favour of early December is the precipitation. “There is almost no, or very low precipitation in early December. This means no overcast skies or wet terrain. This is much more comfortable for someone who is just starting to trek in the Himalayas,” shares Sandhya UC, Co-Founder and COO, Indiahikes.
“Late November and early December is my favourite time to lead a trek. At this time, you can see a transition between seasons on the same trek. At the lower campsites you see the orangish hues. The last touch of autumn is still there. But as you climb higher, you also get the feeling of winter,” shares Shachi Tripathi, Trainer and Slope Manager at Indiahikes.
Treks become much more challenging during peak winters. There's deep snow everywhere around, often seeping into your shoes. Shoes become wet and a nightmare to trek in.
Reason 4: Temperatures are not too harsh
It’s also more comfortable to trek in early December because temperatures are still manageable. “In early December, the minimum temperature you encounter is around -2 degree Celsius. There is a sharp, delicious chill in the air which you enjoy in early December.
A star-lit sky captured during the Collaborative Leadership Program that took place in early December 2021 at Dayara Bugyal. Photo by Izzat Yaganagi.
Later in December the temperature drops to -8. And many trekkers don’t realise that this difference is huge. It’s four times colder,” shares Arjun.
"In early December the cold is not as annoying. It’s just the right amount of cold, which is very refreshing!" says Shachi remembering the days she had spend on treks in early December.
6 Himalayan Treks you must experience in early December
If you are planning a trek in early December, these six treks should be on top of your list
- Ali Bedni Bugyal
- Dayara Bugyal
- Har Ki Dun
- Kuari Pass
Truth is, this is a very narrow window -- between autumn and peak winter -- and very few trekkers get a chance to see it this way.
During this time, you have higher chances of experiencing the first snowfall, and that too in comfortable weather. Lesser snow on the trail also increases your chances of having a successful winter trek. That's the beauty of trekking in early December.
I hope you make full use of it.