Synopsis by Clarke Fountain
In 1846, a group of over eighty Westward-bound pioneers were headed to the coast of California from Illinois, which had itself only recently been brought up to "civilized" status. They made it to a pass high in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California when they were halted by a truly monstrous blizzard, followed by the snows of one of the worst winters in that century. Their attempts to go forward and backward were thwarted by the deep snow, and, in the small shelter they enjoyed, they slowly starved to death. Eventually, they resorted to cannibalism to survive, and after their story became more widely known, the pass they took shelter in became known as "the Donner Pass." To this day, it is frequently made impassable by heavy snows. Ironically, the forty or so who survived later discovered that, had they only forged ahead about a hundred yards, they would have won free of the deep snow which ensnared them. This documentary has gathered a surprising harvest of photos, notes and drawings in order to tell the pioneers' story.
expedition, blizzard, survivor, trapped, pioneer, cannibal, journal, wagon-train, westward-expansion