TWIN LAKES, Colo. (CBS4) – The Leadville Trail 100 Run, also known as the ‘Race Across the Sky’ is returning on August 17-18, which means a team of llamas will return to supply the world’s highest aid station.
“You have to have some sort of support up there, people get into bad trouble at the highest section,” volunteer Gary Carlton said Wednesday as his group prepared for the journey to the top of the pass.
The race is known for its arduous 100 mile course, where finishers receive an iconic belt buckle to showcase for the rest of their days. But few people know that a small group of Colorado volunteers and 28 llamas will hike up the mountain, working as hard as the racers, hauling 3,000 pounds of gear and food to the Hope Pass Aid Station for the race.
The station sits at the top of the Leadville Trail 100 Run course at 12,600 feet, where the volunteers, llamas and four mules camp for several days leading up to and during the race.
The aid station offers tired racers a smorgasbord of ramen, potatoes, M+M’s, gels, electrolytes and medical care. They also pump, filter and chlorinate water out of Willis Creek for the runners.
Carlton has been volunteering at the Hope Pass Aid Station for 15 years, bringing llamas from his 700-acre cattle farm in Strasburg up for the race.
“Sometimes you get spit on, but it’s mostly them spitting at each other or you get caught in the crossfire,” he says.
According to race officials Carlton and his llamas are a favorite among the race participants and due to their hard work, many runners can make it across the finish line.
“From the very first year I got up there and saw the runners I was like ‘This is it. I love this place.’ The pass itself is so beautiful,” he said.
Carlton says Hope Pass is “a little slice of heaven on earth,” and is honored to be able to volunteer with the Leadville Trail 100 Run along with his llamas.
In addition to Hope Pass, he volunteers with Natural Resources conservation services of Adams County, and mentors 4-H youth in the cattle program. He recently retired as the coordinator of Burro Days in Fairplay, where he spent the last 15 years organizing 10,000 spectators, 180 vendors and 230 people through a 3-mile pack llama course.