Donner Pass Road leads directly to Donner Pass, a 7,085ft narrow rocky gap in the northern Sierra Nevada 14 miles from the town of Truckee, California. During the winter of 1846 a site beneath the pass became the location for one of the United States saddest human tragedies. A group of 87 emigrants travelling east to west had been told that the pass was a potential shortcut to California. Led by George Donner, their group consisted of multiple families of men women and children. After weeks of gruelling hardship they became stranded together with their wagons, ox and horses. Before long a snowstorm swept in producing snow depths of up to 22 feet in which they lost their animals and were forced to make shelter. They decided to build makeshift houses beside what is now known as Donner Lake at the foot of the pass.


Slowly the winter took its toll with various members of the group dying of malnutrition and hypothermia. Leaving their children behind some tried to make the journey to get help on foot, fashioning snowshoes out of oxbows and hide, but the going was too hard. Their food ran out and they were eventually forced to draw lots to determine who would be killed so as to provide food for the rest. The bodies were then stripped and frozen to to be stored for the weeks ahead. And so started the now infamous storey of cannibalism amongst the pioneers of the Donner Party. Back at the camp life was miserable. More would die before help would eventually arrive in March. Of the 87 members of the Donner party who set off on the ill-fated journey only 48 survived to reach their new life in California.

I made this series of images on Donner Pass Road during and after the first snowstorm of winter.