Unparalleled data availability in the European Alps has led to an ongoing debate about the driving mechanism behind the concurrent patterns of surface denudation and modern rock uplift. Analysis of stream channels reveals that oversteepened stream segments are primarily located in landscapes with strong glacial inheritance. This leads to a transient signal in the landscape, with the result that erosion is spatially focused by a combination of glacial conditioning and lithologic controls. We postulate that the effect of glacial forcing is a positive feedback cycle between erosion and rock uplift, driving rapid rates of both in the Alpine landscape. This mechanism may explain the observed increases in sediment flux since the late Pliocene.