Doug Sr writes:
Each year we hear "I'm going up the main trail since I don't have the gear or training for the Mountaineer's Route."
What's the difference? Main trail 11 miles solid snow, no trail, steep slopes and more water crossings . Don't be fooled into thinking the main trail is any easier than the North Fork. Ask about the section after Trail Crest the "narrow window areas" and the 2 miles at 13,500 to the summit.
Until the trail opens an honest goal should be trail camp or Iceberg for most without some years of winter mountaineering. Make that your goal and see how you like the snow travel and then work up for the higher elevation.
This is so spot on. In alpine conditions, the main trail can actually be both more difficult and more dangerous. It's way longer, especially the 2 miles to/from the summit from Trail crest. Both the chute and the 4 mile r/t traverse can be dangerous with steep drop-offs by the windows.
IMO, unless you have sufficient mountaineering experience, the way to tackle Whitney in alpine conditions is to do a guided trip up the MR. It's a great bucket list item, where you only have to really focus on your own conditioning, and let the pros deal with setting belays, etc.