deungsan wrote:Original poster here...
Thanks for all the info, advice and photos, everyone.
Just to clear up a couple of issues:
Someone asked why I'm thinking about going alone. Hectic schedule, mostly. High likelihood of last-minute changes, so it's hard to look for a partner.
Someone said its better to go in summer if you want to simply do the route and in winter to if you want to score a winter ascent. Makes sense. The reasons I'm looking at Oct./Nov. are road access and permit availability, mostly. Definitely not looking to claim a winter ascent when it's not even winter.
If you don't care about an ascent in winter conditions now isn't the time to go. There will be a couple feet (more in some places) of new unconsolidated snow resting on top of granite rocks ranging from the size of a baseball to as big as a small cabin. The snow will slow down your progress. Setting aside all the obvious dangers that people have already mentioned you just need to allow more time. Some people can still hit the summit pretty quickly especially if they know the route well. Others may slow down immensily. Like what was already mentioned above there are people posting conditions updates all the time at the Whitney Portal Store Message Board
. Check conditions and weigh it out to see if it's worth it for you to give it a shot. Allow enough time to negotiate the terrain and don't be afraid to turn around if you find the terrain too sketchy.
In the winter months road access can force you to park a little below the trailhead at Whitney Portal but it usually only adds an extra 1/2 mile or so depending on how many rocks have fallen across the road.
Permits for the summer will fill up but if you plan ahead you shouldn't have too much of a problem. Even last minute you can sometimes get one from cancellations that inevitably happen.