The Quintino Sella Refuge is situated between Great Lake of Viso (Lake Grande di Viso) and Lake Costagrande (Lago Costagrande), in a suggestively beautiful position at the foot of Monviso . Serving as a convenient point of departure for climbing the Normal Route (through the Sagnette Pass – Passo delle Sagnette) and the Eastern Crest (from the nearby Viso Col – Colle di Viso); as a practical stop over on the very manageable round trip of Monviso (Giro del Viso); and as the destination of many pleasant walks, the Sella Refuge is one of the oldest and most frequented structures in these Alps. It is likely you will meet walkers and climbers of many different nationalities on the footpaths, and with some luck even come across the splendid examples of local fauna (Ibex, Chamois, Marmot and Lanza’s Alpine Salamander, a species endemic to the Monviso Massif).
The history of Italian mountaineering has strong ties with Monviso. Quintino Sella was infact the first Italian to reach the summit, in 1863 (two years after the success of William Mathews), and riding on the enthusiasm he immediately founded the Italian Mountaineering Club – Club Alpino Italiano
This undertaking, since it’s dawning, gave rise to the need for shelter in the mountains, a rest point for those involved in mountaineering.
The chronology of the subsequent constructions and the map of their positions offers an interesting historical perspective, interwoven with the development of the C.A.I. (Italian Mountaineering Club) and with the inhabitants of the Po and Varaita valleys.
In 1864, the very first news of a “hut” emerged, built in the Forcioline valley (Vallone delle Forcioline) on the route from the Varaita Valley (Val Varaita). This was a makeshift shelter, and the first in a long series of efforts.
There is more detailed information about the refuge erected in the same area in 1881, revealed by the Fontana di Sacripante – a drinking fountain. The fountain takes its name from a phrase attributed to a renowned mountaineer on his return from the summit of Monviso: “Sacripante, I didn’t believe I would come down alive”. The Sacripante refuge could sleep up to eight people.
The conditions of the Sacripante deteriorate quickly. In 1886 the C.A.I. decide to construct the first Quintino Sella Refuge, in honour of the founder, on the same site. It is subsequently extended a number of times. In the following years the refuge experiences progressive neglect, and the refuge is consigned to history with a fire in 1932. Even today it is possible to find traces and remains of that construction.
The Quintino Sella Refuge as we know it today, situated above the Great Lake of Viso (Lago Grande di Viso) was inaugurated on 23rd July 1905. The C.A.I. were justifiable proud of the modern, imposing building which could sleep up to 80 people. In 1955, on the land in front of the Refuge, the Chapel was consecrated in memory of those who have died on Monviso.
Over time, various interventions have improved the habitability of the Refuge. The most recent, realised with commitment from workers, the proprietors and the C.A.I. representatives from 1998-200, consisted of an important extension and renovation of the sanitation system. After nearly a century of honourable service, in which there have been many different proprietors, the Quintino Sella Refuge does not show signs of tiredness. Today, as of old, it remains an indispensible reference point and rest point for those who frequent the mountainside and summits of the Monviso massif.