Based on historical accounts of actual trappers, explorers and adventurers, this is a story about a westward trek to the Oregon Territory in the early 1830's and American efforts to break the British monopoly of the fur trade in the northwest. Matthew Winters, a young painter and man about town meets the explorer Captain Mark Dana in a New York brawl and, fearing that he has killed a man, agrees to accompany Dana's party to the West as an Indian portrait painter for the government. The trip takes them from Washington to St. Louis, up the Missouri River and through the wilderness with an odd assortment of humanity that includes five women, a and a free Negro hunter. Oddest of the lot is Dana himself (or ""Montero""-hunter), a fierce and remote man, really at home only in the most extreme circumstances of life. The group undergoes brutal physical hardships including desperate encounters with whiskeycrazed Indians stirred up by the agent of the Hudson's Bay Company but eventually the main characters reach their destination across the Columbia River, purified and spiritually strengthened by their journey, and young Winters -- the Shadow Catcher -- has forged a new life and character for himself. A book which is really more worth-while for its fund of wilderness lore than its accomplishments as a novel.