A group of Sonoma Valley Sherpas has announced plans for a benefit dinner to raise money for the families of Sherpa climbers killed in the April 18 avalanche that thundered through the Khumbu Icefall on the southeast side of Mt. Everest.

Sixteen Sherpas died in the avalanche, the deadliest accident in the 92 years people have been trying to reach the 29,035-foot summit of the world’s highest mountain. The accident triggered a Sherpa action to demand better compensation for families of accident victims, and ultimately led to the closure of the Everest climbing season in Nepal.

The icefall is considered the most dangerous part of an Everest climb, and the route through the unstable jumble of deep crevasses and giant ice seracs has been set by Sherpas for many years. Expert Sherpas working for an agency of the Nepalese government, in fact, oversee the placement of aluminum ladders used to cross the crevasses and scale seracs the size of houses.

The avalanche victims were among a group of high-altitude Sherpas who were carrying supplies through the icefall to Camps I and II. They were at about 19,000 feet when a wall of ice and snow came off the western ridge of the mountain and buried 16 of them. Three bodies have not been recovered and will presumably be carried down the glacier as it advances at a rate of about four feet a day.

Sonoma Sherpas, some of whom knew some of the victims, watched the unfolding tragedy online and vowed to help the victims’ families.

Plans call for a traditional Nepalese dinner, prepared by chefs from local restaurants, prominently including Sherpa establishments, to be held from 4 to 8 p.m. Sunday, May 18, at Saddles Steakhouse at MacArthur Place.

There will be a program recognizing and celebrating the lost Sherpas, as well as a fundraising auction and raffle. Kenwood climber Jon Reiter, who was on Everest and in the icefall when the avalanche struck, is expected to attend. Reiter has credited Dawa Sherpa, his climbing Sherpa, with saving his life.

Upon his return from the mountain, Reiter told the Index-Tribune that he and his western climbing partner, along with their Sherpa partners, had been delayed in their early morning departure through the icefall by about 15 minutes. Had they left on time, Reiter said, they would have been directly in the path of the avalanche, instead of somewhat below it.

Tickets for the dinner are $50 and are expected to sell out quickly. Beer and wine are included in the ticket price. Ngima Sherpa, a local restaurateur who is helping to organize the dinner, has asked for donations of wine from area wineries as well as raffle and auction items. Donations can be made by contacting Ngima at 363-7908. MacArthur Place is at 29 E. MacArthur St. in Sonoma.

Tickets, which will be required for attendance, can be reserved by calling Mingma Sherpa at 843-6975.

All food is being donated and complete proceeds from the event will be transmitted directly to families of the victims.