Our group of four summited on the 21st... like Brent, I plan on doing a more detailed TR later today or tomorrow. In the mean time, below is a link to my Flickr photo set. The first 30 or so photos are pre-hike photos meant for family and friends, the hike photos start at DSCN6249 and include conditions at the cables, the two snow fields at Trail Crest, and the snow field on the west flank of Whitney itself.http://www.flickr.com/photos/doncoqui/sets/72157627270039954/with/5970024303/
Regarding the North Fork crossing of Lone Pine Creek... TAKE THE OLD TRAIL! We did a scouting hike Tuesday afternoon to Lone Pine Lake via the Old Trail and even though it's a few degrees steeper (no sweat), it shaves about half a mile each way and you reduce the chances of getting water in your boots down to ZERO! You run a good chance to get water in your boots at 3:30am on your way up as you try to make your way across the creek in the dark... probably worse on the return as the snowmelt gushes downhill... although less significant with only a mile to go. PM me if you need a photo of where the Old Trail starts.
Regarding snow levels at the cables and switchbacks... Let me start by saying that I have ZERO snow-hiking experience and was born w/o the risk gene. I'm from Puerto Rico and left the island at age 22... didn't see snow fall until age 30... my comfort level around snow is still close to none at age 48. I recall at least four small snow fields above Trailside Meadows. Some longer, some shorter, but all are passable w/o poles for the average outdoors type folk. There is one a little steeper and slushier that is nothing to worry about with poles... if you happen to lose your footing there and slip, the only thing hurt will be your ego. I did not see any dead-end snow paths above Trailside Meadows (there were more than a few on my failed summit attempt on July 8th last year).
Up the switchbacks there were 2-3 corners where I had to scramble up the rocks because of snow. If you are uncoordinated, like I am, take your poles off and go hand over hand. No sweat. The toughest hand over hand for me was the switchback before the cables... like Brent said, just be careful and focus on the job at hand instead of the view below.
The cable are a NON-ISSUE! Just look at the photos in my Flickr set... enough said about that.
Regarding the two snow fields below Trail Crest... the first was scary for me, but well trodden. I did it w/o my micro spikes on the way up, but put them on on the way down for a little re-assurance. The snow field on the last switchback before Trail Crest was SCARY for me... if you're not confident around snow make sure you have two poles. Hold one short (mountain side) and use it to pull yourself in, keep the other one long to push yourself against the drop. Do not look down... focus on your feet and the next step. Do not look up ahead... it will take however long it takes to get across... nobody cares, but your family and children. Enough said. PM me if you have any questions and/or take a look at my photos for answers.
From there on its only a battle w/ AMS (if you are susceptible) or vertigo... I found two to three uncomfortable spots on the west side ridge... window #1 and two spots where rock falls made the trail footing only a foot wide... again, take your poles off and go hand over hand if your are freaked out by the cliff drops. Having done the snow fields at Trail Crest I can say the West face snow field below the summit is nothing at all.
Hmm... after reading this post, I may not have to do a TR after all... between Brent's report, my Flickr photo set, and the summary above you should have a good idea of our hiking conditions last Thursday, July 21st.
Regards and good luck,
Do not stop eating,
and most of all enjoy.