The Thursday Trip 4 itinerary calls for about five miles from Sheep Lake to the Walupt Lake Trail Junction with about 1,000 feet of elevation drop. Friday morning they’re scheduled to hike their last section to the Walupt Lake Trailhead.

2021 Trip 3 team hiking the reverse of the Trip 4 route.

What’s it like to hike with llamas?

The llamas are a unique part of the Pass to Pass experience and they get attention from other hikers. People tend to want to pet them and take pictures with them. Both are ok. The best place to pet a llama is on the neck. They tend to not like their heads touched.

Llamas also need care on the trail. They carry their grain, and usually teams are hiking in areas where they can graze. Teams need to be sure not to let them graze in an area with poisonous plants. When not grazing in a safe place, llamas wear masks to keep them from eating something they shouldn’t.

Llamas also need water, though they are part of the camel family and may not drink every day. Llamas carry collapsible water buckets teams fill for them, following trail guidelines about keeping livestock a distance away from water sources like lakes.

Resting llama Warf with water bucket.

Each morning, llamas are saddled. Tack can vary though saddles usually have two cinches that go around the belly, one right behind the front legs and one around the widest part of the belly. It’s important that the cinches are as tight as possible so the saddle and load doesn’t slip. Llamas may also have a breast collar that goes around the chest and/or a croup strap that goes under the tail to help secure the load while going up and down hills.

Llama saddles.

Llamas can carry about 60 pounds. Each llama gets two panniers, or large saddle bags, attached to its saddle. The panniers must be equal in weight so the llama carries a balanced load. Every morning, hikers fill up the panniers and weigh them before loading them onto the llamas. Parkinson’s hikers put part of their gear on a llama. Support hikers carry their own gear. Llamas also carry community gear: first aid kit, camp chairs, group water filter, etc.

2021 video of Trip 1 team loading llama Gina at the campsite near Crag Lake.

Typically the llamas work in pairs. A hiker leads a llama, and a second llama’s lead rope is attached to the back of the first llama’s saddle. Hikers take turns leading llamas and completing other llama-related tasks. Teams may have a lead hiker ahead of the llamas to help ensure other hikers make way for the llamas and any dogs on the trail are under control, and to prevent any horse-llama encounters (llamas tend to spook horses).

When the team takes a short break, the llamas probably will, too. They can lie down fully loaded and will especially do so to help keep bugs off their legs and belly. On longer breaks, the llamas may be able to graze and teams may take the panniers off the saddles.

2021 photo of llamas Warf and Faramir resting on the trail on Trip 1.
2021 Trip 1 photo of llamas Warf, Faramir, Gina, and Amos on a lunch break near Bumping River.

Once at camp for the night, llamas are unsaddled and tethered with long ropes attached to stakes that screw into the ground. Llamas are both a large animal deterrent and alarm system. At night, teams often store their food bags near the llamas.

You might wonder:

Do llamas spit? Yes, but usually at each other.

Do llamas hum? Yes, and you can hum to them.

2021 video of llamas Warf, Faramir, Amos, and Gina communicating at the White Pass trailhead.

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