In 1848, Fremont decided to move his family to California, where he had purchased a forty thousand-acre ranch near Yosemite Valley. His wife and children traveled by boat around the southern coast of the United States. But he decided to make a privately financed winter expedition to the
West. He convinced a group of twenty-two men to accompany him across the San Juan Mountains, along the present-day border of Colorado and New Mexico. By crossing the mountain range in winter, he hoped to prove that it was possible to create a transcontinental railroad linking East and West.
But the trip ended up being a disaster. Fremont and his men encountered blizzard conditions, with ten feet of snow and temperatures reaching twenty degrees below zero. They suffered from altitude sickness, snow blindness, and frostbite. To make matters worse, they ran out of food and ended up eating their pack mules. Finally, the party separated and Fremont's group went for help. But upon reaching safety, Fremont remained behind while one of his men led a rescue party to collect the survivors. In the end, ten of his men had lost their lives. But Fremont still considered the trip a success, and even attempted another winter crossing of the mountains several years later.
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