It was winter. The hills were powdered with snow that obliterated all traces of the fleeing Snakes. The way became more mountainous and dangerous. Iced sloughs gave place to swift torrents and cataracts. On New Year’s day, 1743, there rose through the gray haze to the fore the ragged sky-line of the Bighorn Mountains. Women and children were now left in a sheltered valley, the warriors advancing unimpeded. Francois de la Verendrye remained at the camp to guard the baggage. Pierre went on with the raiders. In two weeks they were at the foot of the main range of the northern Rockies. Against the sky the snowy heights rose—an impassable barrier between the plains and the Western Sea. What lay beyond—the Beyond that had been luring them on and on, from river to river and land to land, for more than ten years? Surely on the other side of those lofty summits one might look down on the long-sought Western Sea. Never suspecting that another thousand miles of wilderness and mountain fastness lay between him and his quest, young De la Verendrye wanted to cross the Great Divide. Destiny decreed otherwise. The raid of the Bows against the Snakes ended in a fiasco. No Snakes were to be found at their usual winter hunt. Had they decamped to massacre the Bow women and children left in the valley to the rear? The Bows fled back to their wives in a panic; so De la Verendrye could not climb the mountains that barred the way to the sea. The retreat was made in the teeth of a howling mountain blizzard, and the warriors reached the rendezvous more dead than alive. No Snake Indians were seen at all. The Bows marched homeward along the valley of the Upper Missouri through the country of the Sioux, with whom they were allied. On the banks of the river the brothers buried a leaden plate with the royal arms of France imprinted. At the end of July, 1743, they were once more back on the Assiniboine River. For thirteen years they had followed a hopeless quest. Instead of a Western Sea, they had found a sea of prairie, a sea of mountains, and two great rivers, the Saskatchewan and the Missouri.