Maroon Bells avalanche decimates Crater Lake campground

A panoramic photo shows the destruction at Crater Lake campground on the top of Maroon Bells in Pitkin County in May 2014. An avalanche appears to be the likely culprit of the destruction. (Credit: Chris Tomer)

A panoramic photo shows the destruction at Crater Lake campground on the top of Maroon Bells in Pitkin County in May 2014. An avalanche appears to be the likely culprit of the destruction. (Credit: Chris Tomer)

PITKIN COUNTY, Colo. — Campers beware.

A giant avalanche buried half of the designated camping spots around Crater Lake in the Maroon Bells Wilderness, as shown in the panoramic photo accompanying this story.

On a recent climb up the Colorado Classic Bell Cord Couloir, I walked right through heaping piles of debris.  I was stunned to find trees ripped up and tossed around like match sticks.  Beneath all the rocks, trees and snow, there are dozens of now-decimated camping spots, many of which I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying.

About 500 inches of winter snowfall accumulated on the Maroon Bells this winter, making it one of the largest snowpacks in recent history.

In the spring time this snowpack gets wet and heavy and has a tendency to give way to avalanches. It appears that was the case in this instance.