'Deadly Bells' ring again: 30-something dies from injuries sustained in fall off North Maroon Peak

By Troy Hooper
Real AspenSeptember 15, 2012
An unidentified man died from injuries he sustained in a fall from North Maroon Peak on Saturday morning.

The 30-something-year-old man was near the mountain's summit when he fell approximately 600 to 1,000 feet, according to a statement from the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office.

The Aspen/Pitkin County Communications Center learned of the incident at 9:20 a.m., and deputies were able to speak to the reporting party via cell phone. The sheriff's statement indicates the man was apparently about 300 feet from the summit but, at press time, it was unclear whether the man was going up or down the mountain when he fell.
The Maroon Bells
File photo by Troy Hooper

Believing the man might still be alive, Mountain Rescue Aspen, the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Forest Service and DBS Helicopters mobilized for a rescue, according to the sheriff's statement. But a short time later, members of a different climbing party reached the fallen climber and determined he died, the statement said.

Rifle-based DBS Helicopters lifted a two-person Mountain Rescue Aspen ground team up to North Maroon Peak at 12:10 p.m. to reach the man.

"Rescue personnel believe the deceased climber had been wearing a helmet but was not wearing a harness," the sheriff's statement said.

The man was air-lifted off the 14,014-foot mountain at about 1:45 p.m., and his body was turned over to the Pitkin County Coroner’s Office.

The Maroon Bells aren't just a pair of the most photographed mountains on the continent; they are also seriously dangerous. Many experienced climbers and hikers have lost their lives ascending North and South Maroon Peaks before. Earlier this summer, a 31-year-old New York City Fire Department paramedic died from a fall there. The peaks earned the nickname “The Deadly Bells” after eight people died on them in five different incidents in 1965.

A U.S. Forest Service sign near the start of the trail to the Bells warns they "are unbelievably deceptive. The rock is downsloping, 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.”

UPDATE: Pitkin County Deputy Coroner Eric Hansen on Sunday identified the man who died Saturday on North Maroon Peak as Derek Kelley, 34, of Colorado Springs. For more on this story, click here.

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