Pulling back a bit to a "birds eye view" again, you can see the "Fresh Air Traverse" section in the left hand image, and and "Grand Staircase" section in the right hand photo.
What makes the Fresh Air Traverse the crux of the climb is the exposure. Being roped up along with the careful placement of protection is very important when it comes to safety. I know there are climbers out there that easily climb something like the Mt Whitney East Face Route solo and with no protection at all, but I'm certainly not one of them, and I would not recommend it to anyone. But each has to make there own decision when it comes to safety. I always say error on the safe side. We took the Shaky Leg Crack variation, because the climbers were occupying that section when we got there, and also because it was less exposed even though it is rated as technically more difficult. Once you finish the Fresh Air Traverse, or exit the Shaky Leg Crack variation, you will be able to quickly make time until you get to the "Grand Staircase."
The Grand Staircase is nothing more than a series of large block boulder problems that we did not find too difficult. You can see the nature of these large blocks if you look closely in the upper right hand photo. They are the last obstacle before reaching the summit
. When we finished up, we came out face to face with the Mt Whitney summit hut. Very cool!! We finished late in the day and ended up spending a very cold and long night in the summit hut. The weather was completely clear, so we were not too worried about lightning. As mentioned on our Trail Camp page, the hut offers no protection against lightning and the summit and high ridges need to be vacated right away if lightning is a possibility. Early in the morning, we went back to our camp at Iceberg Lake via the North Slope. Most climbers, however, take the Mountaineer's Route as there decent path.