The Experts

The following individuals, listed in alphabetical order, shared their llama and packing expertise with Festival participants:


Ingrid AsmusIngrid Asmus, PhD, co-author of Caring for Llamas and Alpacas, grew up in Colorado and was an avid outdoorswoman by the time she finished college. She also began to teach first aid and CPR. Following training as a lab technologist, Asmus served in the Peace Corps in the Congo by working at a mission hospital. Returning to the U.S., she continued lab work and taught many mountaineering first aid courses. Bobra Goldsmith took one of these classes to prepare for llama outfitting and guiding and Asmus got to meet her first llamas.
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Wally BakerWally Baker and his wife, Maryan, have owned llamas since 1992 and have been members of the Alpaca and Llama Show Association (ALSA) since 1993. Baker has exhibited llamas in halter, performance and driving throughout the United States, including ALSA Regional Shows and eleven ALSA Grand National Shows (where their llamas have earned prestigious ALSA Grand Champion and Elite awards and Grand National Show Champion honors). He has also been a certified ALSA Judge for several years and has judged at both ALSA Regional and Grand National Shows.  (expand bio)

Jane BruntonJane Brunton, creator of our Festival logo, is a painter and graphic designer who loves being in the outdoors. Here, she finds an abundance of inspiration for her paintings, which includes abstract landscapes, realism and fly fishing art.
Since 2005, Brunton has spent her summers llama trekking with a group of ladies who call themselves the "Llama Mamas." It all started with her friends' quest of completing the almost 500-mile long Colorado Trail, which stretches from Denver to Durango.
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Gary CarltonGary Carlton, of Comanche Creek Llamas, has been breeding and training high-performance pack animals for the last seventeen years. As proof of that fact, his llamas have been in the winner's circle of the Fairplay Llama Pack Race for the last ten years. In addition to competing in the race, Carlton has also coordinated this three-heat pack llama event for the last six years. He recently added another endurance race to his portfolio; Carlton is now co-coordinator of the Hope Pass aid station for the Leadville Trail 100 Run with another of our Festival Experts, Vicky Foster.  (expand bio)

Stan EbelStan Ebel and his wife Dianne founded their breeding herd, Great Divide Llamas, in 1977; their packing business, Buckhorn Llama Company, in 1980; and their llama fiber clothing company, Altiplano Insulation, in 1999. The Colorado Pivot Pack System and the Great Divide Llama Restraint Chute were developed on Ebel's watch, and their animals were a Colorado State University cooperating research herd. The primary focus over the years, however, has been on producing and training llamas that are high-production pack stock. (expand bio)


Al EllisAl Ellis is a Director and Screener for the North American Ccara Association. He and his wife, Sondra, are dedicated to preserving the working llama. They realized early on that introducing new people to llama packing is as important to the success of this goal as is breeding “Ccara” llamas. To that end, the Ellis' own and operate Highline Trail Llamas in western Wyoming and offer full-service llama treks, pot luck treks and rental animals (a use and care class is a rental requirement). (expand bio)


Vicky FosterVicky Foster's first packing experience occurred in the mid 80's when friends from the east coast convinced her to join them on a hike over the continental divide. Knowing that the hike was beyond their backpacking capabilities, the group rented two llamas from nearby Wildwood Llamas. The llamas were great and Foster was thrilled with how little she had to carry. After that trip, Foster started ranch-sitting for Wildwood Llamas and eventually began to do some outfitting for them into Rocky Mountain Park.
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Murray FowlerMurray Fowler, DVM earned a degree in Animal Husbandry at Utah State University before completing his professional DVM degree from Iowa State University in 1955. In 1958, after spending three years in a horse practice in Southern California, Fowler joined the faculty of the Veterinary School at the University of California, Davis. He spent ten years teaching large animal surgery and medicine before being asked to develop a program in Zoological Medicine. It was the first program of its kind anywhere in the world, and made him the ideal person to help with the medical problems of llamas and alpacas. (expand bio)

Viv FultonViv Fulton and her husband Bob have raised llamas on Rhodie Hill Farm in upstate New York since 1985. Fulton is the current President of the Pack Llama Trial Association(PLTA) and is a Certifier and Instructor for PLTA Certifier Workshops. She has certified pack trials in New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Kansas and, most recently, New Zealand. She also manages the membership and database aspects of the organization. (expand bio)


Nancy HesterNancy Hester was an avid horsewoman and backpacker, but she was hooked after she and her husband Robin purchased their first two packers in 1993. Their northern California ranch, Latitude Llamas, boasts a herd of over twenty-five, and the goal of their breeding program is to produce pack llamas with athletic conformation, intelligence and a willingness to work.
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Laura HigginsLaura Higgins, MD became an avid backpacker and guide in the Great Smoky Mountains when she moved to Tennessee in 1985. Her search for low-impact pack stock in the mid-90s led her to llamas; Higgins purchased two llamas in the spring of 1997 and had a herd of twenty llamas by the year 2000.

In 2001, Higgins partnered with Lucy Lowe to purchase English Mountain Llama Treks, a commercial service offering guided trips into the Blue Ridge Mountains.  (expand bio)

LaRue JohnsonLaRue Johnson, DVM, PhD has been working with camelids for over thirty years as a clinical teacher, lecturer and owner. His very popular neonatal clinic, initiated by RMLA perseverance, has been presented over 130 times in most states and multiple foreign countries. Johnson, along with his CSU vet students, monitored and gathered critical information on the competing llamas during seven of the Llamathon pack races, and he and his llamas even ran in a few.  (expand bio)


Cheryl JuntillaCheryl Juntilla first became interested in camelids when she knit a sweater from alpaca yarn, but she quickly came to appreciate the versatility of llamas and their value as pack animals. Juntilla and her husband, Wally, live in Western Colorado. They keep a small herd of llamas, alternating between the Grand Mesa and the Grand Valley on their day hikes and pack trips. They also participate in llama shows throughout the Rocky Mountain Region and are active in local, regional and national llama associations.  (expand bio)


Jill & Robert Knuckles began their journey with llamas in 1995 when they purchased several as hiking companions and to help maintain their small acreage. They quickly discovered the llamas' versatility and, as with many llama owners, their herd began to grow. The Knuckles’ have continued to enjoy the companionship of their llamas on hiking trips over the years. They also discovered the importance and fun of showing, both in halter and performance, and a love for the animals' incredible fiber. Tall Tail Ranch is home to National Halter Champions, Performance Champions and Fiber Champions. Sound conformation, intelligence, disposition, athleticism and extraordinary fiber all play a very important role in the breeding program. This combination has provided them with the "best of all llama worlds": strong, athletic llamas that can be taken on the trail that also provide wonderful every year.

Tom LandisTom Landis bought his first llamas in 1991; at the height of his breeding program, he managed a herd of 96 llamas and specialized in producing athletic llamas suited particularly to packing. In 1992, Landis launched his commercial packing operation, Oregon Llamas. For the next twenty years, he took his hiking guests into wilderness areas in the Pacific Northwest and the High Sierra of California.
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Larry LewellynLarry Lewellyn of FootHills Llamas has been involved with llamas since 1982, when he purchased his first animals for hiking and packing. He grew up on a small farm in Kansas where animals were a big part of life, so llamas were a logical choice to fit his active lifestyle of hiking, camping, fishing and hunting. Lewellyn quickly became enamored with the intelligence, athleticism and beauty of these regal animals. In 1995, Lewellyn married Deanna. Two crias, a male and a female, were in attendance, their halters and leads appropriately adorned for the occasion. (expand bio)

Jay RaisJay Rais has been lucky enough to live with llamas since 1980. He and his wife, Jo, operated Highlooker Llamas from 1984 until 2006; they focused on producing athletic pack llamas during this time. Rais served on the ILA Board of Directors for four years in the mid-90s, where he was instrumental in obtaining funding for the impact studies the Forest Service did on llamas in the backcountry. Rais and his wife were also active members of the Western Idaho Llama Association and were featured in many Outdoor Idaho shows for PBS, along with some hunting and fishing video productions.  (expand bio)

Skip RomigPhil Romig Jr (Skip) earned a PhD in Geophysics from the Colorado School of Mines after serving in the U.S. Navy and working on inertial navigation systems. He was a professor of Geophysics at Mines for thirty-five years and spent twenty-five of those years teaching applied geophysical surveying at the Geophysics Summer Field Camp. During the last eight years at Mines, prior to his retirement, Romig was Dean of Graduate Studies and Research.
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David RuckmanDavid Ruckman has been raising llamas on his family's Ohio farm since he was very young. Over the years, he has shown his animals both in Ohio and throughout the rest of the country. Through shows, clinics and conferences, llamas have taken David to many places— from Florida to Oregon to, most recently, New Zealand. In 2007, when his family's farm was part of the first direct importation of llamas from the United States to New Zealand, David began planning an overseas adventure. For the last year, Ruckman has traveled New Zealand, staying and working on llama, alpaca, sheep and dairy farms along the way.

Laurel SniderLaurel Snider first became involved with llamas through a 4-H project when she was ten. Once-a-week meetings on Tuesdays grew into a passion for competing in performance. She now owns a small herd of three geldings, all with grand champion wins in performance to their credit. Snider has enjoyed several part-time and full-time jobs where her responsibilities included training llamas for the show ring and beyond.
Snider is majoring in psychology at the University of Wyoming and is working to develop an animal-assisted therapy program that uses llamas to interact with at-risk youth.

Shirley WeathersShirley Weathers and her husband Bill Walsh bought their first two llamas in 1995. Avid backpackers, they started expanding their herd (eventually to a high of 13) and in 1998 opened Rosebud Llamas Utah. In 1997, Weathers' created a much-needed resource, Field Guide to Plants Poisonous to Livestock: Western U.S.. Two of our Festival experts, Dr. Murray Fowler and Stanlynn Daugherty, served as peer reviewers. In 1999, Weathers wrote a pocket-sized pamphlet, Leave No Trace Using Llamas in the Backcountry, which was revised in 2004 under joint copyright with the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics(expand bio)

Wally WhiteWally White, our Festival's event announcer and master of ceremonies, bought his first llamas in 1980 so he could take his young family packing in the San Juan Mountains. After helping found the Rocky Mountain Llama & Alpaca Association and serving as president for four years, White went on to serve on the boards of the International Llama Association and the Alpaca Llama Show Association. White also became a certified llama judge and has judged shows all over the U.S. and Canada.
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The Festival Doctor

Ed DonovanEd Donovan, MD, is a doctor of human-style animals who lives with his wife, Deb, in La Veta, Colorado. Donovan is a "veteran" (2010) of the llama-staffed aid station at the Leadville Trail 100 Run, but is otherwise a relative newcomer to the llama world. He is participating in this Festival as the on-site medical doctor at the first-aid station.

 

 

The Organizers

The following four individuals organized this event:


Charlie HackbarthCharlie Hackbarth has spent the last twenty-nine years packing with llamas and building his line of llama pack equipment, Sopris Unlimited, into a globally-known brand. Awards presented to Hackbarth for his contributions to the field of llama packing include the International Llama Association's Pushmi-Pullyu Award in 1988, the Llama Association of North America's Humdinger Award in 2008 and the Bobra Goldsmith Memorial Award, presented by the RMLA in 2010. (expand bio)


Alexa MetrickAlexa Metrick grew up packing with llamas in the Colorado Rockies, spent her fair share of llama conferences manning the Sopris booth (she's Charlie Hackbarth's daughter) and is currently a member of GALA (and the new editor of their newsletter). Recently, after trying to plan an east coast llama pack trip and struggling to find llamas to lease (Metrick and her husband, Craig, do not yet have llamas of their own), she launched Rent-A-Llama.com.  (expand bio)


Mark PommierMark Pommier, a former professional mountain biker, first became involved with performance llamas when he ran for Buckhorn Llamas in the early Llamathon races. It was at these events that he met Bill Redwood, owner of the llama Clancy and promoter of the original Llamathon events, who recruited him to train and race llamas for a variety of high-profile endurance events. Pommier and Redwood gained a considerable amount of knowledge about the athletic potential of llamas during Clancy's racing years.
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Bill RedwoodBill Redwood moved to the mountains of southwest Colorado after graduating from dental school in 1978. An avid backpacker, Redwood bought his first two pack llamas in 1982 after his twin boys were born. He began his pack llama breeding program a year later with seven females and two studs, and for the next twenty years maintained a small herd of pure North American bloodlines. In 1996, Redwood began using 12 males for commercial packing trips; his herd grew and four years later he began leasing pack llamas, as well. (expand bio)