On November 4, 1856, members of the beleaguered Martin Handcart Company reached the Sweetwater River. More than two weeks earlier, on October 19, the day an early winter storm overtook the company, these same handcart pioneers had forded the Platte River. "Very trying in consequence of its width and the cold weather," James Bleak wrote of that experience. Now after sixteen days' exposure to snow and relentless cold, the company faced the challenge of another river crossing. The thought of fording the relatively shallow but freezing-cold river was more than many weak and frozen pioneers could bear.