You can trek anytime. However, remember that the Himalayan weather is a complex system that can even trick experienced trekkers.
Each season throws different challenges and offers variety of sights to cherish. If trekking is an adventure, season-specific problems actually enhance the adventure quotient. The most suitable trekking season therefore depends on four factors:
- Interests, and
- Objectives of the trekker.
You may require extra clothing and equipment to overcome season-specific challenges. For example, rain and winter needs rain gear and ice and snow gear respectively.
For moderately fit trekkers, pre- and post-monsoon seasons except harsh winter are ideal for trekking.
9 reasons to trek Himalayas in spring, summer, and autumn
Pre-monsoon season consisting of spring and summer stretches between March and May. Post-monsoon season from end-September to December comprises autumn and beginning of winter.
Pre- and post-monsoon are the most popular seasons for trekking in the Himalayas due to a number of reasons:
- April and October are free of dangerous rains.
- Autumn ensures clear skies but cold sets in.
- March is good for trekking in lower altitude i.e. up to 2,000 meters because it will be cool. But in April-May, mercury rises at lower altitude and haze blocks the Himalayan vistas. The source of haze lies in dust, pollution, and smoke from the settlements.
- During March-April, rhododendron blossoms.
- Pre-monsoon season presents clear bright blue skies in mornings and evenings. Both clouds and precipitation prefer afternoons. The trails are less crowded.
- April-May facilitates crossing of the mountain passes located at 4,000 – 5,000 meters or beyond. Generally, high altitude passes are inaccessible in March due to heavy snow. Most of the winter snow melts in April because of hot sun that warms the ground. This consistent warmth expedites melting of fresh snow, thereby minimizing or prohibiting accumulation of fresh snow.
- October offers stable weather, clear blue skies, and cloudless afternoons.
- Mid October is the ideal time for photographing high peaks of the Himalayas. Because by then monsoon would clear all impurities, including dust from the Himalayan air. The days are sunny. These stable conditions continue in November. But in November, evenings are cooler, a sign of arrival of winter.
- May-June is peak domestic trekking season in the Indian Himalayas.
December receives less trekkers because of cold nights, likely snowfall, and slow snow melting rate.
Summer is the best season for trekking in the western part. For example, Ladakh, a cold desert in a rain shadow area, is easily accessible during May-September.
Monsoon / Rains
The eastern part of the Himalayas experiences more rains in the summer monsoon than the western part. Monsoon rains are a big challenge because downpours trigger avalanches and landslides and coax leeches to resurface. However, the rainy season has an advantage: July-August presents a treasure of wildflowers.
Monsoon prohibits trekking during July-August in large part of the Himalayas, especially in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Sikkim. But during these two months, trails in Kashmir and Ladakh and Zanskar ranges are accessible for good weather.
Cold conditions prevail during long winter stretching from mid-November to February / beginning of March. Extremely cold conditions require special preparations. But glassy icicles, pure white sights, and fresh snow stocks are tempting.
This is an overview of weather conditions that may further vary due to local and micro factors.