February 21, 2005 - The Volkswagen Touareg has set a new altitude record for vehicles - 6080 metres above sea level. On 29 January 2005, battling against icy winds and a lack of oxygen, the expedition team fought its way through the lunar landscape of the Ojos del Salado, the world’s highest volcano, in a standard Touareg Expedition to achieve the world’s altitude record for vehicles. The altimeter and GPS system displayed. On February 16, the record was officially recognised by the “Guinness Book of Records” at an altitude of 6080 metres.

According to Volkswagen, this is the highest point on the surface of the Earth that a vehicle can reach and safely return from.

The route of the team of eight, headed by expedition leader Rainer Zietlow, first took them through the Atacama desert, the world’s driest area. The base camp was located at 4,400 metres above sea level above the salt lake Laguna Santa Rosa, famous for its pink flamingos.

From there the trail continued over stones and pebbles with an 80 % gradient, snow fields and soft volcanic sand. At the wheel of the Volkswagen Touareg was Ronald Bormann, who has won the European Truck Trail competition several times. In sections where rocks as large as a man blocked the path, the winch, fitted as standard to the Touareg Expedition, helped the team on its way.

The additional spotlights, also part of the standard equipment package, fitted to the roof rack containing spare wheels and rescue equipment, lit the way through the night to the rock-strewn summit. As the air became thinner at 5,000 metres above sea level, the crew was given additional oxygen by altitude specialist Dr Rainald Fischer. In this way the chairman of the Association for Mountain and High Altitude Medicine (BExMED) was able to ward off the potentially life-threatening altitude sickness.

The Institute for Cartography at the University of Dresden helped to select the route to the summit following a recent four-week survey of the summit region for the purpose of making new maps. The knowledge gained by the expedition will help the scientists verify their work.

However, the most important scientific aspect of the expedition to a region endangered by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions was the installation of a seismographic station, managed by the Geological Research Centre in Potsdam. This station makes it possible to register eruptions directly above possible earthquake focus sites, thus advancing global earthquake research.