You learn a lot about a man at 29,000 feet.
Dave Mauro found that out when he put his life in the hands of a stranger from a strange land as he climbed Mount Everest.
"There's something about that experience that creates a bond that's very deep," he said. "It's just a great deal of love, and that doesn't end when the climb is over."
Mauro reached the top of the world two years ago with the help of his Sherpa named Mingma. It was one of the highest times in Mauro's life, followed by the lowest for Mingma.
The Sherpa's home and village were destroyed by April's massive earthquake that killed more than 8,600 people and destroyed half a million homes. Mauro says he had to do something after learning his friend was still living under little more than a tarp with six friends and family.
"The only way for me to make sure they're okay is for me to get out there and build a house," said Mauro from his home on Bellingham's Lake Samish.
And that's what he intends to do.
While the financial planner has no background in building, his architect son does, drawing up plans after visiting Mingma's village. They started the One Sherpa Home Foundation (www.onesherpahome.blogspot.com), dedicated not just to rebuilding Mingma's house, but to giving tools and training to dozens of Sherpas in Nepal. The hope is they can start a "cottage industry" -- building structurally sound homes for others that will survive the next earthquake. Mauro estimates it will cost about 18,000 to build the first home, which includes $4,000 to pay the workers. Twelve dollars a day is considered a good family wage in Nepal, Mauro plans to pay the $21 per day. He has started a Go Fund Me account at www.gofundme.com/onesherpahome
"They need our help," said Mauro. "It's a tall order, but it begins somewhere."
It's a first step, much like climbing a mountain.
For Mauro, it's a way to help the strong and humble people of Nepal climb out of the depths of their despair.
And to say thank you to the man that helped him ascend to his dream.
"This is a man who risked his life for me," said Mauro. "There's no turning away from that."