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In the north-western Himalaya, the distribution of modem glaciers and snowlines in the Ladakh and Zanskar Ranges adjacent to the Indus River valley suggests comparable climatic conditions prevail in the two ranges. Similarly, the positions of terminal moraines and reconstructed equilibrium-line altitudes (ELAs) indicate equivalent magnitudes of Neoglacial and Late Glacial advances in both ranges. However, the terminal positions and reconstructed ELAs from the late Pleistocene maximum advances are at least 400 m lower in the Ladakh Range than in the nearby Zanskar Range. These differences do not appear to reflect either climatic or tectonic controls. Rather, they are caused by an unusual bedrock configuration in the Zanskar Range, where vertical strata of indurated sandstones and conglomerates, and narrow steep-walled canyons cut through them, created a bulwark that effectively precluded significant down-valley advance. Without recognition of this physical impedance to glacial advance, uncritical reconstructions would greatly overestimate the altitude of the ELA in the Zanskar Range.
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