Himalayan metamorphism in the Kashmir and Zanskar sector of the High Himalaya resulted from thrust- and fold-related crustal thickening within the Indian plate following the collision of India and Asia at c. 50 Ma. Interbanded metapelites, marbles, calcareous schists, amphibolites and quartzites represent metamorphosed equivalents of the Palaeozoic-Lower Mesozoic continental margin rocks. Granitic rocks include pre-collision K-feldspar megacrystic and biotite granites and post-collision two-mica ± garnet ± tourmaline granites. Average pressure-temperature conditions of equilibration using the self-consistent thermodynamic data-set of Holland & Powell (1990) are presented across a 45 km traverse of the eastern Kashmir-western Zanskar High Himalaya. Kyanite is the stable aluminosilicate phase across 35 km outcrop width in the middle of the slab. Complex microstructures indicate that prograde metamorphism up to kyanite grade and fabric development in the upper structural nappes is early and unrelated to the Main Central thrust. Diachronous metamorphism propagated southwards with the overall structural evolution. Early isograds and thrust-fold structures were carried passively in the hanging-wall of the Main Central thrust.
Peak metamorphism, based on 40Ar/39Ar hornblende ages, occurred pre–30.7 ± 2.0 Ma at the top of the slab, and in the middle of the slab was pre-22 ± 1.0 Ma, probably 25-28 Ma. The lower structural levels in Zanskar record peak metamorphic conditions around 700–750 °C and 8 kbar, reflecting depths of burial of 28–30 km. A new younger schistosity, which is not present in the higher structural levels, was developed under kyanite grade conditions. The regional distribution of high temperatures recorded by thermo-barometry does not support the concept of additional heat being supplied by frictional heating along the Main Central thrust or magmatic heat resulting from anatexis. Exhumation of the Himalayan metamorphic rocks was achieved by three major processes: erosion as a result of crustal thickening, uplift of the rocks along the hangingwall of the Main Central thrust above a major frontal ramp in the Kishtwar Window area, and extensional unroofing along the footwall of a large-scale, NE-dipping normal fault at upper crustal levels, probably synchronous with compression at depth.