Documenting the structural evolution of the Himalayan orogen is fundamental for understanding the dynamics of collisional orogenesis. We argue that the importance of deformation in the frontal, Lesser Himalayan–Subhimalayan (LH-SH) portion of the Himalayan thrust belt for driving crustal thickening over the past ~15–13 m.y. has long been overlooked. To quantify its contribution to thickening, we measured parameters from 22 published cross sections that span the length of the orogen. The mean structural uplift accomplished by the LH-SH thrust belt increases from 10–15 km in the eastern half of the orogen to 15–23 km in the western half. An antiformal culmination constructed by LH duplexing is observed across the orogen and increases in structural height (to as much as 15–20 km) and north-south width moving westward. Construction of the culmination was the primary mechanism for building and maintaining wedge taper. The westward scaling of culmination size is accompanied by doubling and tripling of LH-SH shortening and accretion magnitude, respectively; when combined with a consistent orogen-wide modern taper angle (11° ± 2°), this indicates that duplexing facilitated the growth of an overall larger orogenic wedge moving westward. Following the initial southward propagation of deformation into LH rocks at ca. 15–13 Ma, the Himalayan orogenic wedge has been characterized by stacking of multiple thin, small-displacement thrust sheets to develop a high-taper orogenic wedge. Thus, LH-SH deformation has had a profound effect on driving thickening, exhumation, and the attainment of high elevations since the middle Miocene.

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