We present evidence for a series of pre-Pleistocene landforms on hand of a new geomorphological map for the Gurktal region of the Eastern Alps. The Gurktal Alps region is the westernmost region of the Eastern Alps that escaped the glacial reshaping in the Pleistocene. Its morphology therefore preserves evidence of older landforms in closer proximity to the central part of the range than any other region in the Alps. The region is therefore useful to document aspects of the geomorphological evolution for the Eastern Alps during both, the Pleistocene glaciations and the earlier uplift history. Our mapping approach is twofold. We applied stream-power analysis outside the glacially overprinted areas to detect and classify spatially distinct quasi-stable stream segments, which we expanded to planar objects using slope analysis combined with field mapping. Our mapping results document four palaeo-surfaces located roughly at about 1500 m, 1200 m, 900 m and about 800 m above sea level. We correlate these levels with well-known palaeo-surfaces from the eastern end of the Alps and suggest that they can be interpreted in terms of more than 1000 m of surface uplift in the last six million years. Channel analysis and the distribution of Pleistocene gravel terraces suggest that the main trunk of the river Gurk was diverted from the Wimitz valley in the Rissian. Furthermore, steam-power analysis documents an ongoing activity of the Görschitztal fault and some inferred Pleistocene activity of a north-west trending fault close to the township of Gurk.
In order to constrain tectonic models for the nature of the Eoalpine high pressure belt at the eastern end of the Alps, we investigate the formation pressure of metamorphic rocks along a profile between the Koralpe and the well-known UHP rocks of the southern Pohorje mountains. Rocks from three different regions are considered: (i) the rocks of the southernmost Koralpe to the north, (ii) the rocks of the Plankogel Unit between the Plankogel detachment and the Drava valley and (iii) the rocks between the Possruck range and the southern Pohorje mountains. In the Koralpe, pelitic rocks record a formation pressure around 15 – 18 kbar, as reported in the literature. For the Plankogel Unit, we derive pressures between 7.1 ± 1.95 kbar and 11.5 ± 3.42 kbar at 650 °C and recognize only a single Eoalpine metamorphic event. For the high grade rocks of the Pohorje mountains, we derive peak metamorphic pressures (explored with the garnet-muscovite-kyanite-quartz assemblage) that rise from 16.2 ± 3.45 kbar (at 700°C) in the north, to 23.9 ± 2.49 kbar (at 700 °C) in the south. There, we also recognize a later lower pressure event that is derived from pressure calculations with the full equilibrium assemblage. This lower pressure event yields similar conditions around 10 ± 2 kbar at 650 °C for the entire north-south transect within the Pohorje mountains. Peak metamorphic conditions in the Koralpe and Pohorje regions are matched by a continuous field gradient of about 1.3 kbar per 10 kilometers distance corresponding to a depth increase of about 0.5 km per kilometers distance assuming lithostatic conditions. We suggest that this supports that the two units may be interpreted together in terms of a 45° dipping subducting plate. Above this subducting plate, it is inferred that a slab was extracted that was located between the Plankogel Unit and the high pressure rocks, causing a first exhumation stage that is associated with buoyant upwards tilting of the subducted slab to mid crustal levels. Within this model, the Plankogel Unit was located in the hanging wall of the extracted slab and the Plankogel detachment forms the suture of the extracted slab. Exhumation from mid crustal levels to the surface during a 2nd stage occurred due to erosion and normal faulting. This normal faulting is responsible for some 10 km of upward displacement of the Pohorje mountains relative to the Koralpe and ultimately for the current distribution of lithologies on a map scale.