My best guess is that this tree was "exploded" by ice. When I first saw it, I thought lightning destroyed it, but there’s no sign of burn marks. I haven’t had any lightning for months now, and I’m pretty sure I’ve been past this tree since the season’s last lightning storm. If you forced me to guess, I’d say it’s been no more than a month since I’ve been past this tree in my wanderings around the forest.
The damage on this tree looks pretty fresh. The wood is pale and isn’t discolored the way I would expect it to be if the tree was damaged months ago. Since I believe the damage was caused recently, the only option I can come up that would damage a tree like this is ice. I’d be happy to hear other ideas.
It is true that no other trees that I’ve seen show anything like this level of damage. I’ve seen some trees that fell over from the weight on the ice on them and lots and lots of downed branches, but nothing that looks like this. The tree isn’t near a road, not even a two-track road, so I can’t really imagine this is some kind of human-caused damage either. So, for the moment at least, that’s leaving me with ice as the damaging agent.
And if this is ice damage, about all I can say is, wow! The poor tree is a goner, completely destroyed. It’s certainly an impressive level of destruction, too. It really makes me hope I don't have any more ice storms this year, that's for sure. The damage around the mountain is already bad enough without having to worry that more trees will end up looking like this.