Polyphase deformation, dynamic metamorphism, and metasomatism of Mount Everest’s summit limestone, east central Himalaya, Nepal/Tibet

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Geological Society of America


New samples collected from a transect across the summit limestone of Mount Everest (Qomolangma Formation) show that multiple distinct deformational events are discretely partitioned across this formation. Samples from the highest exposures of the Qomolangma Formation (Everest summit) preserve a well-developed mylonitic foliation and microstructures consistent with deformation temperatures of ≥250 °C. Thermochronologic and microstructural results indicate these fabrics were ingrained during initial contractile phases of Himalayan orogenesis, when crustal thickening was accommodated by folding and thrusting of the Tethyan Sedimentary Sequence. In contrast, samples from near the base of the Qomolangma Formation (South Summit) preserve extensional shear deformation, indicate metasomatism at temperatures of ∼500 °C, and contain a synkinematic secondary mineral assemblage of muscovite + chlorite + biotite + tourmaline + rutile. Shear fabrics preserved in South Summit samples are associated with activity on the Qomolangma detachment, while the crystallization of secondary phases was the result of reactions between the limestone protolith and a volatile, boron-rich fluid that infiltrated the base of the Qomolangma Formation, resulting in metasomatism. The 40Ar/39Ar dating of synkinematic muscovite indicates the secondary assemblage crystallized at ca. 28 Ma and that shear fabrics were ingrained at ≥18 Ma. This paper presents the first evidence that Everest’s summit limestone records multiple phases of deformation associated with discrete stages in Himalayan orogenesis, and that the structurally highest strand of the South Tibetan detachment on Everest was initially active as a distributed shear zone before it manifested as a discrete brittle detachment at the base of the Qomolangma Formation.



Himalaya, South Tibetan Detachment, Mount Everest, Qomolangma, metamorphism, deformation


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