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For sure, WD, but personally I have never used and don't yet own axe nor pons. I look forward to trying what you are describing and have done some early season peak hikes that I felt secure on with just trekking poles. As far as Ritter area, I was just happy to finally hike anywhere near Mammoth. Besides it being a long drive for me, I've been avoiding the area because my current highest priorities beyond great scenery include avoiding shuttles, fees, and crowds, while still providing fun car camping and shorter hiking/activities for my wife, kids, and dogs.
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