Dean M. Chriss
Maroon Bells, Autumn Reflections, Colorado
(Click image to enlarge)
Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak comprise the pair of mountains known as the
Maroon Bells. Both peaks are in excess of 14,000 feet high and they are
separated by about a third of a mile. Maroon Lake is situated in in Maroon Creek
valley at the base of the mountains. The area is protected as part of the Maroon
Bells-Snowmass Wilderness of the White River National Forest. It is easily among
the most beautiful spots in Colorado.
The Maroon Bells are composed of
metamorphic sedimentary mudstone, which is responsible for the Bells'
distinctive maroon color and their deadly nature. Mudstone is weak and fractures
easily. A U.S. Forest Service warning sign on the trail to these mountains
states: “The beautiful Maroon Bells have claimed many lives in the past few
years. They are unbelievably deceptive. The rock is down-sloping, rotten, loose,
and unstable. It kills without warning. The snowfields are treacherous, poorly
consolidated, and no place for a novice climber. The gullies are death traps.
Expert climbers who did not know the proper routes have died on these peaks.
Don't repeat their mistakes, for only rarely have these mountains given a second
chance.” The Maroon Bells received the nickname "The Deadly Bells", in
1965 after eight people died in five separate accidents.