Q&A Questions and Answers:
...And a second question:
How much weight can a pack mule reasonably carry, and for how long?
Setting: Rocky Mountains, daytime, climbing from 6,000 to 10,000 feet - only some steep inclines, e.g., as in switchback trails.
During World War II, army quartermasters used a rule of thumb that a mule could carry up to about one-third of its weight -- including tack. Army pack saddles and related gear weighed in the neighborhood of 100 pounds, so the workaday payload was generally held to about 180 to 210 pounds. The biggest factor in your scenario is not so much the weight but the amount of climbing and the elevation. I've hiked with a full backpack on switchback trails over New Mexico mountains in the 10,000 to 11,700 foot range, and there were times I literally thought my next step would be my last. You're asking those critters to climb nearly a mile in mighty thin air. Even with stock accustomed to those elevations, I don't think I'd try to set any speed records. Dehydration is also a problem for both humans and livestock at those heights, so be sure your story includes enough water breaks.
[Photo from the Robert Runyon Photograph Collection, [image number 02063], courtesy of The Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.]
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