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The World Beneath Their Feet Reviews

The World Beneath Their Feet by Scott Ellsworth

The World Beneath Their Feet: The British, the Americans, the Nazis and the Mountaineering Race to Summit the Himalayas

Scott Ellsworth

Score pending

2 reviews

Imprint: John Murray Publishers Ltd
Publisher: John Murray Press
Publication date: 20 Feb 2020
ISBN: 9781473649620

One of the most compelling international dramas of the 20th century and an unforgettable saga of survival, technological innovation, and breathtaking human physical achievement-all set against the backdrop of a world headed toward war.

1 Prize for The World Beneath Their Feet

William Hill Sports Book of the Year
2020 Shortlist

Ellsworth’s The World Beneath Their Feet brings to life this unforgettable saga of survival and breathtaking human physical achievement set against the backdrop of a world headed towards war.

View the full shortlist here


4 stars out of 5
James McConnachie
9 Feb 2020

"as this gripping book reveals, the 1930s was the most thrillingly desperate climbing decade of all"

It works brilliantly, capturing the period and national flavour of the expeditions, as well as the urgency. The story of the Germans in the Himalayas is the least known, and most tragic. Driven by nationalistic fervour and Nazi-style Übermensch ambitions, they wanted “not just a mountain, but a lifetime of honour and glory”. They sought it first on Kanchenjunga, the world’s third highest mountain, but they found it on Nanga Parbat, a ferocious Himalayan giant in the far western Himalayas. On the eve of the summit attempt in 1934, the leader’s rucksack already packed with its swastika flag, a storm broke — one so intense that the sky turned pitch black at midday. Two of the German climbers strapped on skis and abandoned the Sherpas — one of whom survived six unimaginable nights in crude snow caves, his hands and feet terribly frostbitten. He was the lucky one. By the time the storm passed, three Germans and six Sherpas had died.

3 stars out of 5
8 Feb 2020

"contains plenty of rollicking stories, but reading it is nevertheless something of a trudge"

The World Beneath Their Feet contains plenty of rollicking stories, but reading it is nevertheless something of a trudge. To reach the end, intrepid readers must brave the blizzard of Ellsworth’s clumsy metaphors, tiptoe round his broken grammar, and skirt the yawning crevasses of hyperbole into which his prose frequently falls. One of the favourite refrains of Ellsworth, an American historian, is to say that the sight of the mountains “literally took the breath away” from his protagonists, but fortunately for his readers, aesthetically induced asphyxiation is one peril they will be spared.