Sonora Pass was first discovered and crossed in 1827 by Jedediah Strong Smith, beaver-trapping mountain man of renown. He was once attacked, mauled, and scalped by a grizzly bear, who ripped his ear/hair/face off, but when he was found, Smith convinced the guy who found him to sew it back on, and it just sorta healed. He wore his hair long on one side after that to hide the scar. So lopsided haircut, check. Trés chic. With this fabulous do, he sets off to go to California.
“Surely of all lives the hunters is the most precarious, we endure all the extremes of heat and cold hunger and thirst our lives and property are always at hazard. when we lay down our guards must be placed our Rifles by our sides and our Pistols under our heads ready to spring up at once from our wakeful sleep.” he writes of the journey.
But it had it’s humorous moments too, as he’s in the Sierras he saw “An indian was carelessly walking at a short distance. he heard the sound of my horses feet. turning his head he saw me. he sprang ran a few steps. his bow and arrows flew from his hands he staggered and fell on his face. I went to him turned him over he was apparently lifeless but presently recovered so far as to open his eyes. I put a piece of Tobacco in his hand and left him without being able to make him stand or even sit up.” Have a cigar.
As they ascended further and further into the mountains, it got harder and harder, his horses kept drowning as he was crossing streams, and he’d lose traps, and horses, and men. He had to butcher and eat some horses, there was nothing to hunt in the area.
He says “The summits could hardly ever be seen as they rose far into the region of perpetual snow and were generally enveloped in clouds. But when the clouds for a while passed away and brought the Peaks to view rising from their dark base covered with snow and gleaming in the sun they possessed an unsurpassed grandeur and Sublimity.”
Once the horse carrying all their ammunition was swept away by the current and drowned: “This was indeed a terrible blow for if our ammunition was lost with it went our means of subsistence and we were at once deprived of what enabled us to travel among hostile bands feared and respected. But my thoughts I kept to myself knowing that a few words from me would discourage my men. I immediately set 2 men on the bank of the river to watch knowing this fact without knowing the reason that a horse unless kept down by a heavy load will rise to the surface in from 10 to 30 minutes. By the time the party had crossed over the men on the bank told me they thought they could see one of the horses feet the load keeping the animal from floating off. One of the men who was a good swimmer went in and fastening a cord the whole was pulled out together. Besides Lead there was 25 or 30 lbs of powder in the pack but as it was in a good leather sack but a part of it was damaged.” Good to know. Just in case it happens to you.
Or you can read Xander's comic instead, it’s marginally shorter.