Beech forest after snow, Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, Chile
Parque Nacional Torres del Paine (Towers of Paine National Park), in Chiles far southern Región XII, is justly deserving of its reputation for offering some of the finest tramping in the world. A week-long circuit of the spectacularly eroded granite massif at the centre of the Park takes trampers through a stunning range of forest, alpine, lake and glacial environments, together with an invigorating and very often tempestuous subantarctic climate.
The forest here, dominated by lenga (Nothofagus pumilio) and Ñirre (N. antarctica), has close relatives in New Zealand and Tasmania, clearly indicating that in times gone by these three quite far flung areas were once joined as a single land mass. The treeline in this more southern region, however, is considerably lower than in either New Zealand or Tasmania; lenga and ñirre forest here peters out altogether at an altitude of just 600 metres, and generally has a rather stunted form below this level.
This photograph was taken near the treeline in the upper Valle los Perros, which rises towards 1200-metre Paso John Garner (John Garner Pass), the highest point on the Torres del Paine circuit. Fresh snow had fallen the previous night, and after a freezing start to the day I was well rewarded with this seemingly monochromatic landscape once I had climbed to the treeline a few hundred metres above where we had camped.