The localization of strain in the continental crust during compressional tectonics is examined using the active structures at the Nanga Parbat massif, an exhumed tract of Indian continental crust in the Pakistan Himalaya. This large-scale (~40 km wavelength) structure is considered to involve the whole crust. Thrusting at the modern surface places gneisses of the Indian continental crust onto Holocene deposits. At the Raikhot transect, the thrust zone carries a relatively narrow (2 km wide) shear zone within which minor structures are asymmetric and the deformation apparently noncoaxial. However, modeling of foliation and augen preferred orientation/ellipticity suggests that the bulk deformation is a combination of relatively small simple shear strains (¿ = 1) with larger stretching strains. Heterogeneous stretching within the shear zone was accommodated by localized shearing on metabasic layers so that strain is partitioned. Outside this shear zone on the transect there is penetrative deformation throughout the Nanga Parbat massif. This broadly distributed deformation shows no asymmetry or evidence of rotation. Rather this deformation is better described as near pure-shear subvertical stretching. Augen ellipticities suggest subvertical stretches of greater than 200%. Consideration of plausible changes in crustal thickness during the amplification of the Nanga Parbat structure suggests the magnitude of vertical stretch decays with depth. Presumably these strains in the deep crust are more distributed but weaker than in the exposed middle crustal sections, assuming conservation of horizontal shortening displacement with depth. These studies suggest that penetrative vertical stretching through dominantly pure shear deformation is an effective mechanism for thickening the continental crust and that models which assume that simple shear zones penetrate the whole crust need not be of ubiquitous applicability.