The Unimog by Mercedes-Benz is a true go-anywhere all-terrain vehicle, born over 70 years ago and sold in 30 countries. At least 400,000 units have been sold to date, used for all sorts of transportation in extreme conditions.
When it comes to scientific expeditions in all places and climates around our planet, the Unimog would be ideal, as an expedition team believed. The 10-strong team had a task to install 4 emergency radio units at various high-altitude camps at a volcano known as Ojos del Salado in Chile. In an emergency, each of the units can be used to create a radio connection with the 3 other base camps of the Ojos del Salado. This system will improve the safety both for mountaineers and scientific researchers.
The volcanic mountain measures 6893 metres and is thus the tallest active volcano on earth. It is within the Atacama Desert – one of the driest places on earth and part of the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’ which has many active volcanos and earth movements.
Customised for the extreme conditions
The team was supported by Mercedes-Benz Special Trucks which provided two Unimog U 5023 vehicles of the latest generation. These were configured to carry the expedition team and all of their equipment required to the extreme altitudes. To ensure that the vehicles were ready to tackle any challenges, both trucks were equipped with special tyres, strong winches and special bodies with variable centre of gravity balancing developed by the specialists at the Unimog Museum, Unimog bodybuilder AS Soder, and engineers from the Unimog development team.
Absolute world record set
After the team made it to the high-altitude camp at 6,100 metres and had completed the installation of the fourth emergency radio unit there, they set about achieving another milestone: breaking the altitude record for wheeled vehicles. This was with one of the two trucks which reached an altitude of 6,694 metres – no vehicle has climbed to such heights before anywhere around the world.
The team didn’t just beat the record set with a Mercedes-Benz Zetros in 2014 but they also set the absolute world record for a wheeled vehicle driving at altitude. According to the head of the expedition, both vehicles ‘mastered the extremely steep and rocky passages, thanks to a combination of the best, reliable technology, a balanced centre of gravity and amazing tyre technology to bring the materials and equipment to these enormous heights. At no point in time around the world have motorised altitude expeditions taken two trucks simultaneously to such an altitude’.