The nexus of plate-boundary deformation at the northern end of the Coachella Valley in southern California (USA) is complex on multiple levels, including rupture dynamics, slip transfer, and three-dimensional strain partitioning on nonvertical faults (including the San Andreas fault). We quantify uplift of mountain blocks in this region using geomorphology and low-temperature thermochronometry to constrain the role of longterm vertical deformation in this tectonic system. New apatite (U-Th)/He (AHe) ages confirm that the rugged San Jacinto Mountains (SJM) do not exhibit a record of rapid Neogene exhumation. In contrast, in the Little San Bernardino Mountains (LSBM), rapid exhumation over the past 5 m.y. is apparent beneath a tilted AHe partial retention zone, based on new and previously published data. Both ranges tilt away from the Coachella Valley and have experienced minimal denudation from their upper surface, based on preservation of weathered granitic erosion surfaces. We interpret rapid exhumation at 5 Ma and the gentle tilt of the erosion surface and AHe isochrons in the LSBM to have resulted from rift shoulder uplift associated with extension prior to onset of transpression in the Coachella Valley. We hypothesize that the SJM have experienced similar rift shoulder uplift, but an additional mechanism must be called upon to explain the pinnacle-like form, rugged escarpment, and topographic disequilibrium of the northernmost SJM massif. We propose that this form stems from erosional resistance of the Peninsular Ranges batholith relative to more-erodible foliated metamorphic rocks that wrap around it. Our interpretations suggest that neither the LSBM nor SJM have been significantly uplifted under the present transpressive configuration of the San Andreas fault system, but instead represent relict highs due to previous tectonic and erosional forcing.

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