The Deadly Bells

August 12, 2010


Photographer: Thomas McGuire
Summary Author: Thomas McGuire

The Maroon Bells are among the highest and the most photographed peaks of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. They are a mere 12 miles (20 km) southwest of the busy resort town of Aspen. Access to Maroon Lake is available primarily by buses operated by the U.S. Forest Service. South Maroon Peak, the more distant summit, is 14,156 feet (4,315 m) above sea level. Their composition of iron-stained siltstone plus the mountain haze combine to yield a memorable maroon color. But the same sedimentary rock that provides the unique color also makes the Bells some of the most treacherous mountains in the Rockies -- too many hikers think this is a scenic hike and don’t realize that it’s a strenuous climb. Hence, they're known locally as The Deadly Bells.

Evidence of erosional action by alpine glaciers is abundant in the Bells. The U-shape of the valley is evident in this image as well as one of the two cirque lakes; Maroon Lake, shown here, and Crater Lake, about a mile away behind the gray avalanche debris near the center of the image. The pointed peaks are known as glacial horns, and many hanging valleys can be seen high above Maroon Creek. Photo taken on July 16, 2010.

Photo details: Camera: FUJI FinePix S9000; Focal Length: 14.0mm; Aperture: f/3.6; Exposure Time: 0.0022 s (1/450); ISO equiv: 80