Exhumed high-pressure rocks from the Caledonian root zone in Norway provide analogues for processes occurring today under southern Tibet, allowing large-scale geophysical observations, from gravity and earthquakes, to be linked with the mechanical properties of metastable rocks under high mountains. Metastability is essential for the survival of thick mountain roots and, hence, of high mountains and is in turn controlled by water. If water is absent, dry granulite, formed from earlier melting episodes, is both stable and strong and likely to survive in the eclogite stability field of deep root zones for hundreds of million years. But if hydrous fluid is introduced, the transformation of granulite to eclogite is relatively rapid and accompanied by a dramatic loss of strength. In Norway, this transformation was initiated by water infiltration along fractures formed by earthquakes. The same process, as marked by deep earthquakes, may be occurring today beneath southern Tibet.