I'll keep this pretty brief - gf and I successfully summitted 10/23 with a day use permit. We actually snagged an overnight permit in addition to our day use permit a couple days before our trip because we thought it might be better to knock out the first 6 miles to Trail Camp and spend the night there. After watching temperatures and talking with the ranger at the visitor center we decided to skip the overnight, mainly due to being uncertain if we had sufficient gear for the cold weather. We talked to a few people that spent the night there and they confirmed that it was very cold. Be sure to have a sleeping bag rated for 20dg or lower if you plan to camp.
Our fitness: we're both in our mid-20s and are very active (including hiking). We spent the week leading up to Whitney in Yosemite and hiked Eagles Peak, Clouds Rest and Mt. Dana, so our bodies were well prepared for the elevation and distance. I'd highly recommend Mt. Dana as a pre-whitney hike to gauge your body. It's only ~6 miles, but hits 13k elevation.
Trip timing: total trip = 14.5hrs
- We left the parking lot at 2:40am. The first leg to trail camp wasn't bad at all - we actually had to shed some layers early on because it was pretty warm (40s) at Whitney Portal.
- Between Lone Pine Lake and Trail Camp, temps started to drop noticeably.
- ?am arrived at Trail Camp: took a brief break to eat a few bars, but didn't hang out for long due to the cold. Didn't bother to check the time due to the cold.
- 8am arrived at Trail Crest: the switchbacks weren't bad at all. About 30mins in to them it started warm significantly due to the sun.
- 10am Whitney Summit: It got chilly again after crossing to the back side of the mountain from Trail Crest for the final push, but nothing too bad. Summit was beautiful and wasn't too windy for us.
- 2pm Trail Camp return: took a longer break, refilled water.
- 5:20pm finish at parking lot
- The only parts worth mentioning are the switchbacks and backside of the mountain after Trail Crest.
- The switchbacks were probably 80% snow covered. Fortunately there had been a couple inches of snow over the past couple of nights, so it was easy going on the way up (didn't use microspikes). The way down was a bit more slick, so we popped on our microspikes but had no other issues.
- The backside of the mountain had ~10 spots that had bonified ice on them. These areas were short, so it wasn't worth putting on and taking off microspikes. We just carefully maneuvered around them.
- Prepare yourself physically: we spent about a week between 4k-8k elevation before Whitney (came from sea level before that) and felt great. Minimal to no symptoms of elevation sickness. We passed many people that were hurting pretty bad on the trail. If you have no experience doing physical exercise at altitude and you only give your body 1-2 days to adjust before Whitney, you are going to be hurting. It's still possible to do it, but be aware of what you're getting yourself into.
- Have plenty of layers: You'll likely start out warm and get cold as you gain elevation. You DO NOT want to start sweating at the beginning. If you do, you'll be very cold once you hit trail camp. We had base layers, down jackets, and a shell. Gloves are also super important - don't expect the random ski gloves you found in a box to be sufficient. Your hands will get cold. I'd recommend a glove liner and mittens (they keep your fingers warmer).
- Take microspikes: While it was technically doable without spikes when we did it, they helped a tremendous amount on the descent of the switchbacks. In addition, if the switchbacks go a few days without new snow they may turn icy (melt during day, freeze at night).
- Prevent freezing camelbacks: as many others have mentioned, your camelback straw will likely freeze. To prevent this, blow hard in to the straw to push the water back in to the water reservoir after drinking. This will limit the water that has the opportunity to freeze in your straw. After doing this, tuck the mouthpiece in to your jacket (get it close to body warmth). No matter how hard you blow, there will be water in the mouthpiece that will still freeze. Keeping it close to your body will limit this.