Minneapolis, Minnesota--Until recently, climbers summiting Everest, Whitney, Rainier, and other legendary highpoints had only their photos and memories to remind them of feeling on top of the world. Thanks to one Minnesota company, climbers can now take home a piece of the peak.
Survey benchmarks, noting a summit's elevation, are replicated as pewter gifts by Geographic Locations International, Minneapolis. The fine pewter lapel pins, zipper pulls and paperweights can be found in shops at the mountains as well as on GLI's redesigned website, www.mountainclimb.com.
"Climbers are at the top for the view--360 degrees of view," said GLI founder and president, Betty Green Risser. "Most, too, check out the view at their feet--the survey benchmark."
"Our authentic replicas of the summit benchmarks are a great way for hikers and climbers to remember their accomplishments because they are so unique. Few people get to the top. SummitMark(tm) gifts give those who've scaled the heights another interesting way to share their treasured experience."
Survey benchmarks are permanent installations marking elevation, latitude and longitude. They are used for mapping, construction, and engineering purposes and can be found at geographic features of all types. The company, of course, is most interested in the ones at significant sites.
"We had three mountains represented our first year. Now we have more than 60 summits and sites," Risser said, noting that the popularity of GLI's products is on the rise with such places represented as Mt. Everest, Mt. Whitney, Mt. Rainier, Grand Teton, Long's Peak, Mt. Katahdin, Mt. Washington, and several points in the Grand Canyon, including Phantom Ranch and Hopi Point.
"Our pieces are so loved because they are authentic and quality workmanship. Each is a very visual and 'official' reminder of a special place and time. The smaller items can even be worn like a badge wherever your journeys take you."
The company has taken off--nearly doubling its sales every year since its inception. But GLI's growth hasn't been only Risser's doing. She has enlisted the help of mapping professionals, such as Brad Washburn, co-director, American Everest Expeditions 1995-1998, as well as dozens of hikers, climbers, and other outdoor enthusiasts.
"People just love the idea and love to help. The product line is built from the photo contributions of outdoor enthusiasts who have 'been there'," Risser said. "Some are on a mission--to be the first to bag a photograph of a needed mark." Risser calls them "MarkerSleuths(tm)".
GLI uses the submissions to create its fine pewter products. Credit is given on the materials accompanying the markers and on mountainclimb.com, the company's official website. In addition, first contributors receive free markers when their submission is on the market.
The idea for the product came to Risser while preparing to refinish her kitchen floor. "When I pulled up the layers of flooring, there was a 3 inch hole right it the middle of the doorway," Risser said. "So I put a benchmark there reading YOU ARE HERE and the Lat/Lon of the spot."
The concept of knowing one's place in the world fascinated Risser, as did the survey marks. That soon lead to the idea of "Where in the World Have You Been?" commemoratives. The outdoor enthusiast market, of which Risser is certainly a member, seemed an ideal fit for this kind of product.
With more than 3 million survey marks in the US alone, there's still room for growth. Though building her business is certainly important, Risser says the most rewarding part is hearing how pleased someone is who has found the perfect momento for their adventure, or the perfect gift for a friend. "It's really gratifying to be part of their enthusiasm."
GLI's success has been a slow, steady climb. "Frankly, I don't know if we ever want to find the peak. Because then the only place to go is down, right?" Risser said. "Then again, maybe we can stay there forever. Like all those benchmarks."