Two Mercedes Unimog trucks recently went where no vehicle has gone before. The rugged four-wheelers were used to set a new altitude record for a motorized vehicle last week when they topped out on an active volcano in Chile.
But, just like any other mountaineering expedition, the climb wasn’t an easy one, pushing both machine and drivers to their limits.
The massive and rugged trucks didn’t initially set out to set a new altitude record. In fact, they were actually tasked with delivering a team of ten researchers, along with their equipment and gear, to a volcano called Ojos de Salado.
The group was sent there to install four emergency transmitters on the slopes of the mountain, which is the tallest active volcano in the world. That transmitters will be used to monitor seismic activity and potentially warn scientists of an impending eruption.
But after that equipment was installed, the team decided that they still had enough time and resources to potentially set a new altitude driving record while they were on the mountain. So, with that thought in mind, they continued upwards in their oversized trucks. Those vehicles had been heavily modified to operate in the demanding environment, which includes extremely rocky terrain.
Outfitted with large numbers, oversized tires, and special engine modifications that allow them to drive at altitude, the Unimogs were able to climb up to a height of 6694 meters (21,961 ft.). That bests the old record, set back in 2007, which was 6688 meters (21,942 feet). Surprisingly enough, that mark was established on Ojos de Salado as well, in a heavily modified Suzuki Samurai.
To get a sense of what it is like to drive in this environment, check out the video below. You’ll also see the Unimogs in question as they work their way up the volcano. While not as demanding and difficult as a traditional mountaineering excursion, this is nonetheless a lot of fun to watch and a pretty impressive accomplishment.