When the sun disappears on the trail to Everest Base Camp in December, it becomes very, very cold. It's the kind of cold that gnaws at the bones, sapping strength and will.

Residual heat dissipates within seconds of the sun setting — or it dipping behind a cloud — and the temperature plummets. Hikers beeline to the dining rooms of their lodgings and huddle around the 4:30 p.m. fire, fueled by yak dung and the odd scrap of wood. Once dinner is served, the fire dwindles too quickly to nothing, and heavy down jackets and four-season sleeping bags become the means to survive.

But there is good reason to be out here in December. It is off-season, and instead of being one of the 30,000 that attempt the trek to Everest Base Camp (EBC) in peak season from April to May and September to November, you are one of a handful enjoying unspoiled access to one of the most majestic vistas on Earth.