I just did my first trip up Whitney on Sunday 6/19/11 with my wife and our friend of ours who had not summited in over ten years. None of us are experienced with hiking and climbing in snow conditions so we decided not to bring crampons or ice axes. Figured it would just give us a false sense of security and possibly get us into trouble. So we went knowing that however far we got would be "our" summit.
Our goal was trail camp. Although we had heard mixed reviews on the trail conditions. Getting to the Lone Pine Lake junction was no problem at all. As we passed Lone Pine lake and walked though a flat area of snow we saw what looked like the only way to continue was straight up the snow. This is NOT correct!! As we looked at this vertical chute, with plenty of foot traffic on it, we were considering turning around until we saw what looked to be switchbacks to our right (north). These switchbacks lead you to a marsh/meadow just before Outpost camp. Hooray!!
!!!!! If you choose to take the chute up from Lone Pine Lake, you will be traversing snow the entire way up. You will miss Outpost Camp and Mirror Lake. You won't meet back up with the trail until just before Consultation Lake. !!!!!
From Outpost on up there was a fair amount of snow but we had few problems keeping an eye on the trail and trekking through it without crampons. If you lose it, be patient and observant. And if all else fails, follow your footsteps back the way you came. I would warn you though to be very careful that you do not cross over any of the streams that are covered in snow if you can avoid it. With how soft the snow was I could see just how easy it would be to fall through the snow and into the creek below.
Ultimately we were able to make it to a ridge overlooking the still frozen Consultation Lake and a great view of Trail Camp and "The Chute". I'm gonna try to put up a trip report tonight when I get home with some pics. The mountain was beautiful, the weather was amazing and everyone on trail was helpful and nice.
I cannot wait to come back when the snow has melted and stand on top of this inspiring Mountain!!!