TODAY   |  April 29, 2014

Adventurer: ‘Worst day of my life’ seeing avalanche

Joby Ogwyn joins TODAY to recount watching the deadly Mt. Everest avalanche that killed 16 Sherpas on April 18, making it the single deadliest day on the world’s tallest mountain. The harrowing aftermath is captured in the new documentary, “Everest Avalanche Tragedy.”

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> we are back at 7:41 with the latest on that tragic avalanche on mount everest . 16 guides were killed on april 18th . it was the deadliest disaster ever on the world's highest peak. now we're getting an exclusive look at some of the video that was shot of the frantic risk efforts that day. it's part of the new documentary " everest avalanche tragedy" produced by nbc news's peacock productions. it airs sunday on the discovery channel .

>> next patient is coming in here. i need people who are used to working with helicopters.

>> these were the desperate moments as captured by nbc news cameras after a cascade of snow and ice buried a team of sherpas carrying supplies up the mountain ahead of the busy climbing season.

>> as much oxygen as you can.

>> rescue helicopters air lifting victims one by one from the treacherous khumbu ice fall , 18,000 feet up everest .

>> one patient is 20 meters . the other is 200 meters .

>> we kept calling their names on the radio. no response. we asked our sherpas that we were in contact with, where's dorgi, where's passan? and they said, we think they're gone.

>> just a day before, the sherpas and other climbers had taken part in this buddhist ceremony. asking the mountain for permission to climb and safe passage. nbc news crews were there to shoot a discovery channel special about this man, daredevil j daredevil joby ogwyn, who was preparing to be the first person ever to leap off everest in a wing suit . after the disaster, this was cancelled.

>> all the sherpas were calling down to base camp saying there's been an accident, a massive avalanche and they're digging their friends out.

>> do you need them taken to the hospital?

>> the avalanche claimed 16 lives that day and effectively ended the climbing season this year, a stark reminder of the forbidding nature of the world's tallest peak. and joby ogwyn is with us now. good morning to you.

>> thanks.

>> hard to watch those images? it hasn't even been two weeks.

>> it is. it was hard to watch them then. something i'll never forget. probably the worst day of my life.

>> you were at everest base camp . this group of guides, sherpas, were hauling equipment up the mountain to camp one, a spot more distant up the mountain. what did you see and hear? you were in the tent, it was the morning, right?

>> that's right. it was about 6:45 in the morning. i was awake and i heard the avalanche from my tent. it didn't sound like one of the biggest ones i had ever heard, but i heard it coming from the ice fall. i unzipped and looked and actually saw the avalanche come down and cover up everybody.

>> let's be clear. this is an incredibly treacherous part of everest , the khumbu ice fall . avalanches are common. how did you know this one was different?

>> well, at first, i didn't know it was different. it's something, like you said, avalanches happen every day, all the time. i just knew it was different because it was coming from the i icefall and it sounded big enough to do some damage.

>> you said it looked like a snake going down the mountain.

>> it did. it was actually a little slower. they build up a lot of speed. when i saw it cover up my guys and people that i knew up there, i thought maybe they just got kind of the tail end of it, got dusted. but unfortunately, it was worst than i thought.

>> this is not soft snow. this is hard rock ice coming off a glacier.

>> that's right. it's not like an avalanche in colorado, for example, where it's that soft snow, flaky snow. this is massive ton blocks of ice that when they hit, they explode like shrapnel. when it buries somebody, it's like burying them in concrete.

>> all of you at base camp sprung into action. tell me about the rescue efforts. what you did and also what your climbing partner did that day.

>> well, the first thing we needed to do was try to figure out what had happened and try to get some communication with our sherpa. and very quickly, the radios lit up and we could hear that there was chaos on the mountain. but after about an hour, we didn't hear anything from our guys. and so my climbing partner garrett madison and i decided we would go up into the icefall. we knew that there were some guys that had survived and we wanted to shake hands and hug every guy, we wanted to bring them food and water and just feel like they felt supported when they came down. garrett actually was my hero. he went up into the area where the avalanche happened and assisted and i kind of watched from below and tried to spot in case there were any other avalanches coming down.

>> yeah, not knowing whether there would be another that day. and you were almost there. you had plans to go up with these sherpas but at the last minute decided to stay back and do some shooting. you have to be thinking about that.

>> i do. i was very lucky. i really wanted to go up with my guys. that's how i normally do it, establish the camp and make everything right for the jump. and one of the producers just said, why don't we shoot a couple things with the equipment, and at the last second, i said yeah, let's do it. save my life and garrett 's life.

>> joby ogwyn, what an ordeal you have been through and certainly all the people on everest , our best wishes are with them. want to remind everybody that " everest avalanche tragedy" is sunday night at 9:00 p.m . on the discovery channel .