Climate and topography control millennial-scale mountain erosion, but their relative impacts remain matters of debate. Conflicting results may be explained by the influence of the erosion threshold and daily variability of runoff on long-term erosion. However, there is a lack of data documenting these erosion factors. Here we report suspended-load measurements, derived decennial erosion rates, and 10Be-derived millennial erosion rates along an exceptional climatic gradient in the Andes of central Chile. Both erosion rates (decennial and millenial) follow the same latitudinal trend, and peak where the climate is temperate (mean runoff ∼500 mm yr−1). Both decennial and millennial erosion rates increase nonlinearly with slope toward a threshold of ∼0.55 m/m. The comparison of these erosion rates shows that the contribution of rare and strong erosive events to millennial erosion increases from 0% in the humid zone to more than 90% in the arid zone. Our data confirm the primary role of slope as erosion control even under contrasting climates and support the view that the influence of runoff variability on millennial erosion rates increases with aridity.