Core Stories

Public Lands Llama: Training In The Wellsville Mountain Range

Training 101

Marcus the Public Lands Llama is back and ready to kick off another season sharing his public land adventures. To prepare for this year’s season, Beau Baty of Wilderness Ridge Trail Llamas takes some of the lead llamas up into the steep terrain of his old stomping grounds, the Wellsville Mountains, for intensive training and conditioning.

At 4 years old, llamas are fully matured and ready to take on a 120-day working season. Beau’s Ccara pack llamas are trained to cover 6-10 miles a day with 70-80 lb packs - but that doesn’t happen overnight. Some of these young llamas have only been saddled once or twice and it takes a little work and a lot of patience to get them comfortable, conditioned, and adventure-ready.

When training his llamas, Beau’s goal is to get their heart rate up and challenge them with loaded packs in steep terrain. And when it comes to steep terrain, the Wellsville Mountain Range delivers. This training trip took place during the heat of early summer - ideal for training and conditioning llamas.

”Typically, we would pick a nice meandering route up the mountainside, but today is the day these guys have to prove themselves,” said Beau. “By guiding them up seriously steep terrain we will find out what they are capable of.”

With years of experience under their belts, Beau and his wife Kristin know a thing or two about training pack llamas. To get the most out of training, they use a few tactics to help condition the llamas.

  1. First, always use a veteran llama to lead the youngsters. The veteran llama on this trip is Shane, and he’s sets the pace for the 3 younger llamas and pushes them to their limits on the steep terrain. But the training is in more than just the climb.

  2. Llamas need just as many breaks going down as they do going up. Llamas carry 67-70% of their weight over their front legs and their long neck helps counterbalance their weight when going downhill. To protect their joints and increase their endurance, it is important to traverse your way back down the mountain versus walking straight down the face. Especially in terrain as steep as the Wellsville Mountain Range.

This is Your Land

image via RootsRated

In 1984, 23,750 acres of wilderness area was set aside by Congress, thus creating the Wellsville Mountain Wilderness Area and Mount Naomi Wilderness Area just east of Cache Valley. These wilderness areas protect a majority of the Wellsville Mountain Range and provide access to vast areas of public land.

Located in Utah at the Northern end of the Wasatch Range, the Wellsville Mountain Range is well known as the steepest mountain range in North America and the 3rd steepest in the world. And although it isn’t exceedingly tall, it is particularly narrow. Its tallest peaks reach over 9,300 ft. while its base is barely 5 miles wide, making the Wellsville Mountains the steepest and narrowest range in the Rockies. Because it is so narrow and lacks foothills, the range appears to burst up from the earth straight into the sky, creating a giant mountainous wall that looms over the valley.

Home to mule deer, elk, moose, cougar, and massive birds of prey, and boasting over 17 miles of trails, the Wellsville Mountain Range is a hiker, hunter, and recreationalists dream. But as vast as this area of public land is, its access sites and trailheads are limited. Those who are venturing out to explore public lands like the Wellsville Mountain Range would benefit from using a product like onXmaps to help identify public land entrances and where private lands begin.

Where the pavement ends, onX begins. View detailed maps of the Wellsville Mountain Range.

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Public Land Facts

  • Raptors and other birds of prey use this mountain range as a major flyway and migration route, making this an exciting choice for bird watchers.
  • The Wellsville Mountain Range is the steepest mountain range in North America and the 3rd steepest in the world.
  • Once devastated by overgrazing, the wilderness has recovered and then some. Scattered across the range are groves of bigtooth maples, pines, and aspen, making the Wellsville Range one of the most colorful fall landscapes in Northern Utah.
  • The majority of the range is a wilderness area so no motorized transportation is permitted.
  • There is a limit of no more than 10 people for overnight backcountry groups. Camping is not permitted within 200 ft. of any body of water.

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