the world's most spectacular roads

Ojos del Salado

Ojos del Salado is a massive stratovolcano in the Andes on the Argentina-Chile border and the highest volcano in the world at 6,891 metres (22,608 ft). This mountain has been the scenario of several records for attaining the highest altitude aboard a land vehicle. It’s probably the highest accessible point by car in the Earth.

Due its climb in elevation over thousands of feet, the strong winds and passing through remote areas, it is important when driving in these conditions to be prepared. Due to its location near the Atacama desert, the mountain has very dry conditions with snow only remaining on the peak during winter. It is located about 600 kilometres (370 mi) north of Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere at 6,962 m (22,841 ft). Despite the generally dry conditions, there is a permanent crater lake about 100 metres (300 ft) in diameter at an elevation of 6,390 m (20,960 ft) on the eastern side of Ojos del Salado. This is most likely the highest lake of any kind in the world.

This mountain is the second highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere and the highest in Chile. It has been the scenario of several records for attaining the highest altitude aboard a land vehicle. The first record was set by a German expedition with several vehicles, setting a mark of 6,646 m (21,804 ft) by March 2007. One month later, on 21 April 2007, Gonzalo Bravo G. and Eduardo Canales Moya (from Chile) beat such record, setting a new one with 6,688 m (21,942 ft) above the sea level. To reach this elevation, the car included wheel, tire, and suspension changes and also packed a supercharged G16A 4-cylinder underhood. They got the record in the third attempt, after encountering weather difficulties the first time and an engine fire the second time. The rig that they drove was a 1986 Suzuki Samurai. It was heavily modified by Gonzalo, adding stronger axles, lower gear ratios, air lockers, bigger tires and Supercharger. 


The same mountain was also the place where a motorcycling world altitude record was set. Walter Colebatch, Lukas Matzinger and Barton Churchill set the world altitude record for motorcycles whilst utilizing lighting systems from HiD50.com. On the 18 March 2012, at 2:30 pm the Husaberg Adventure Team (Walter J Colebatch – UK, Barton Churchill – USA, Lukas Matzinger – Austria) set a new world record for altitude reached by motorcycle of 6,361 m / 20,869 ft, with a Husaberg FE 570 motorcycle on the snow covered volcano. This motorcycling record improves the previous best of 6,245 m / 20,489 set in 2008 by an Indian team in the Himalayas by 116 meters / 380 ft. Most recently, Chilean Gianfranco Bianchi reached an altitude of 6.472 m (21,233 ft) with a Suzuki RMZ 450 and set the latest record for motorbikes on 19 April, 2015. The first high altitude record for trucks was set by a team around Matthias Jeschke. They drove at 6.675 meters (21,899 ft) with a Mercedes Benz Zetros Truck and established a high altitude record not only for trucks but also for diesel-powered motors.


The climb includes terrible conditions. Besides the amazing height and lack of oxygen, the most difficult thing is the variety of terrain that they had to drive trough. The terrain on the Volcano included steep climbs, huge rocks, snow, glaciers and deep sand. Although these are challenging in their own right, they are usually not found all in the same trip. By bike, Guido Kunze rode 6,233m up the Ojos del Salado volcano to set the new world record. The 48-year-old ascended 6,233m up beating Andre Hauschke’s 2010 record by 150m. In total Kunze pedalled 342.77km in just over 37 hours from Bahia Inglesa on the Pacific coast to the to the northwest ridge of the volcano, ascending 6,899m in total.


The climb is simply terrible, with a notorius lack of oxygen that tests the organisms and a high degree of steepness. It’s a real challenging road and a true test of your vehicle and your stamina. During the climb the vehicles endure hurricane-strength winds, temperatures that reach minus 30 degrees Centigrade or minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit not to mention the limited air that goes with such altitudes and the difficulty of maneuvering over glaciers, fissured rock cliffs and volcanic sand.