Joe Colombo at 4,554 metres altitude

Club Alpino Italiano and Olivari 1980–2021
Maintenance on the Capanna Margherita at 4,554 metres altitude

During the first week of September 2021, the highest door-handles in Europe will be substituted at 4,554 metres altitude. The handles are installed at the Capanna Regina Margherita mountain refuge, which sits on the Gnifetti Peak in the Monte Rosa massif, near the Swiss-Italian border. The replacement operation is made possible thanks to a donation from Olivari, a leading Italian manufacturer of door-handles, to the benefit of the Club Alpino Italiano, the governing organisation for Italian mountain climbers. The current Olivari handles will be replaced by another extraordinary Olivari product.

The Olivaris are a family of skiing enthusiasts and mountain lovers that has always had a special bond with Monte Rosa. In 1977, the Varallo section of the Club Alpino Italiano (CAI) fully renewed the Margherita refuge that had been constructed in 1893. The new structure was inaugurated on 30 August 1980. Back then, Olivari contributed the Cusio handles. Now, 40 years later, the company is reiterating the gesture.

Cusio handle, Gino Anselmi, 1973

Beta handle, Joe Colombo, 1973

This time, the Beta handle designed by the architect Joe Colombo was chosen – for several reasons: Its shape is functional to this setting for its rounded tip at the end of the handle, meaning it is safe and friendly to use. The modernity and stylistic relevance of the model make it an evergreen, allowing the Beta to retain its freshness for at least another 40 years to come. And finally, the level of Italian design it represents is as high as this remote, lofty place.

The initiative originates in stewardship values shared by the CAI and Olivari for the conservation and appreciation of national heritage, here represented by the Margherita mountain refuge.

The door-handles will be customised with the laser-engraved words Olivari – C. Margherita 4554, and a commemorative plaque reading Olivari, maniglie d’alta quota 2021 (“high-altitude handles”) will be mounted on the premises.
In September, the ascent to the Gnifetti Peak for the installation of the handles will depart from Punta Indren (at 3,227 metres). Four Olivari technicians will be accompanied to the Capanna Margherita by Antonio Montani (the vice-president of the CAI) and two professional guides.

Capanna Regina Margherita Mountain Refuge

Located on top of the tallest peak in the Valsesia area of the Piedmont region, the Capanna Regina Margherita is the highest mountain refuge in Europe.

It is also one of the most important bases run by the Club Alpino Italiano – a long-standing departure point for expeditions to the Monte Rosa massif. It is equipped with a major weather station, a laboratory affiliated with the University of Turin, and other laboratories for medical and scientific research.

The story of the Capanna Margherita began on 14 July 1889, when an assembly of CAI delegates approved the plan to build a refuge at over 4,500 metres to “offer mountaineers and scientists greater ease in their endeavours by constructing a high-altitude refuge”. In 1890, the Gnifetti Peak was chosen as the location. Materials for the structure were transported by mules and then carried on the shoulders of men. The refuge, with an impressive drop-off toward the valley, was mounted on the peak under an enormous assembly-line effort, and inaugurated on 4 September 1893. The month before, from 18 to 19 August, Queen Margherita of Italy spent the night at the refuge named after her. In 1899, a small tower was added for the weather station.

Today, the building offers sleeping rooms with bunk beds for 70 guests; a common room with bar and restaurant; communal bathrooms; electric lighting,; 220-volt power; Internet connection; scientific laboratories; and a library. In 2002, the Capanna Regina Margherita obtained UNI EN ISO 14001 certification for its minimal impact on the environment.