In late August, Dave Goldstein climbed 13,803-foot Vestal Peak in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, and about 100 feet below the summit he found a small fir tree. This wasn’t a shrub or wind-stunted krummholz—the tree (probably a subalpine fir) stands thigh-high. It’s growing on an east-facing ledge, with a six-foot rock wall behind it, at around 13,700 feet (4,175 meters).
The usual tree line in Colorado is no higher than about 11,700 feet (3,566m). Is this climate change? Or did this seed just find an unusually sheltered spot to take root? Either way, this could be the highest tree in the Rocky Mountains. Have you seen one that’s higher?