Each order is a balancing act of extreme precariousness.(Walter Benjamin)

Earth pyramids regional reserve

Colloquially, they are known as “fairy chimneys”, but technically they are defined as “earth pyramids” or “hoodoos”. Whatever they are called, they are some of the most spectacular and intriguing geological phenomena that nature has to offer, and not just in Camonica Valley: indeed, these spires of rock are up to 30 meters high, topped by a large “hat”.

Though it might seem like they are kept upright by some strange law of physics, or even magic, their formation and shape are actually due to specific geological processes that have roots in prehistory. During the Riss Glacial Stage, Lake Iseo’s current basin was occupied by a glacier up to 600 meters thick; when this enormous mountain of ice retreated about 150,000 years ago, the lake formed. In the area around Zone, the glacier left a vast moraine made up of fine material such as clay, silt and sand, as well as bigger rocks and stones.

This deposit was then eroded by rain, which gradually isolated the rocks that today act as “hats” on the hoodoos. In fact, these rocks have protected the stony material underneath them from being eroded away by rainfall, just like a hat or umbrella – in this way, an earthen spire was formed. When the top rock falls off, the pyramid quickly crumbles until it finds another “hat” lower down.