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The rapid erosional unroofing of the Nanga Parbat Himalaya in late Cenozoic time is thought to have been initiated when the Indus River, initially flowing somewhat north and well to the west of its present location, was captured and diverted south close to the massif of today by extensional structures and downfaulted topography across the Kohistan-Ladakh island arc terrane. It is hypothesized that the Nanga Parbat pop-up structure was initiated at c. 12–10 Ma, as a tectonic aneurysm caused by rapid incision by the Indus River and other surface processes. Because of this subsequent rapid unroofing of the region, however, the oldest sediments to record erosion in the immediate region of Nanga Parbat are < 200 ka old: most sediments and our cosmogenic and ISRL exposure dates are more than five times younger. Diverse field measurements of rates of local incision and areal denudation for mass movement, glacial, river and catastrophic floods for the past c. 55 ka are highly differential but internally replicative and externally consistent with research indicating long-term, severe denudation. Averaged rates of maximum incision at more than 15 points around the massif are 22 mm ± 11 mm a–1. Late Pleistocene surface processes at Nanga Parbat were capable of erosional unroofing of the massif sufficiently vigorous to produce the pronounced relief of today.

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