Although being just a few weeks away from the start of the monsoon in June, the weather in the Everest region in May is still favorable for trekking. Temperatures are slightly warmer than in April (with an average high of 57°F/14°C in Namche Bazaar) and rainfall slightly higher but still low. Later in the month in particular, humidity in the build-up to monsoon may obscure the mountain views at times. You may experience brief thunderstorms later in May, which actually have the benefit of clearing the air and making mountain views better.
May is the start of the Everest climbing season as the conditions are most favorable on the mountain itself at this time of year, but these conditions are quite different from what regular trekkers will experience at (much) lower altitudes.
Crowds & Costs
Although the number of trekkers in Nepal tends to tail off throughout May as humidity and temperatures increase before the monsoon, the trail to Everest Base Camp (EBC) is a bit of an exception because of all the people who come to climb the mountain. Early to mid-May tends to be the start of the climbing season, and expeditions get there early to properly acclimatize. So, crowds and costs will be at their height in May, and flights from Kathmandu to Lukla sell out well ahead of time.
Unless you're planning on climbing Everest, we recommend avoiding EBC itself in May. But, that doesn't mean you can't see the camp or the mighty mountain itself.
There are many other wonderful trails in the area that offer many of the things that travelers seek from the EBC trek. One special alternative is the Gokyo Lakes trek, which diverges towards the spectacular turquoise glacial lakes, and also gives great views of Everest and friends.
For more of a challenge, the Three Passes trek traverses three challenging high passes in the region, and is a good option for experienced trekkers. The Ama Dablam Base Camp trek is also a great way to visit a mountain that most people only see from a distance when trekking in this region.
Camping is a good alternative to staying in a teahouse, and the conditions in May are generally favorable for sleeping in a tent. The Gokyo Lakes and Ama Dablam Base Camp treks offer great camping spots, and you don't even have to rely on camping every night of your trip. Check out the following article for more ideas: Best Campsites in the Everest Region.
To follow a longer, more remote route to Everest, check out the Arun Valley to Everest Base Camp Trek. The Arun Valley is between the Sagarmatha and Makalu-Barun National Parks. The trek starts at Tumlingtar, east of Everest, and joins the main EBC trail at Kala Pattar. It's possible to avoid trekking to EBC itself on this trek if you alter the standard route somewhat.
May is also a good time to tackle a trekking peak if you're up for more of a challenge but don't have the money, skills, or inclination to climb Everest. If you have high-altitude climbing experience, a trekking peak is a good introduction to Himalayan climbing. Island Peak (20,305 feet/6,189 m) is challenging but not too technical. The trek to get there follows much of the traditional EBC trek.
Similarly, Mera Peak (21,246 feet/ 6,476 m) is Nepal's highest trekking peak. The trek there is particularly special, as it requires trekking through the remote Hinku and Hongu Valleys, which veer off the main EBC trail before you reach Namche Bazaar. The treks to Island Peak and Mera Peak can be combined by crossing the high Amphu Labtsa Pass.
What to Bring
It's wise to be prepared for all eventualities in May while still packing judiciously. A good three-season sleeping bag, a down jacket, merino base layers, and a rain jacket are important things to bring. Read more about what to pack in our Trekking Gear List for Nepal.
Getting There & Away
The quickest and easiest way of getting to the Everest region in April is to fly from Kathmandu to Lukla. These flights are often delayed or canceled because of the weather or conditions in Kathmandu, Lukla, or en route. With mounting humidity, smog, and dust in Kathmandu in May, flights can be delayed in this month. They also fill up quickly, so it's important to book as far ahead as possible. And always give yourself some buffer days so you don't risk missing an important international connection because of delays leaving Lukla.
Events in May
Billed as 'the world's highest marathon', the Tenzing Hillary Everest Marathon is held every year on May 29th, the anniversary of the first Everest summit in 1953. Participants can choose to run a 60 km, 42 km, or 21k m trail starting from EBC through the Khumbu Valley. Not one to be taken lightly!