Mountain rescue teams need vehicles that are unstoppable in even the most extreme conditions. And there aren’t many vehicles that are less stoppable than the Mercedes Unimog.
So Mercedes-Benz’s Special Trucks division has loaned a Unimog U 4000 to the mountain rescue team in Baden-Wurttemberg to test on the Feldberg, the highest mountain in the Black Forest, just on the edge of the Alps in southern Germany.
It’s a brutal environment, with thick forest on the lower slopes, and craggy rock faces and snow fields towards the 4,898-foot (1,493 meters) summit. Even with the Unimog’s high ground-clearance, low center of gravity, and extreme approach and departure angles, rescue work will be a stern test for it.
The Unimog is question is powered by a four-cylinder turbo diesel engine producing 218 horsepower (160 kilowatts), and is fitted with a seven-seater cab big enough to take the whole rescue team. The drop-side load bed can be loaded with “rescue modules” equipped for every eventuality, be it extracting passengers from a stranded cable car or searching for avalanche victims. An off-road trailer can be hitched up too, carrying boats, snowmobiles, and other heavy equipment.
Head of the Baden-Wurttemberg mountain rescue service, Lutz Scherer, said: “Emergency operations in difficult terrain are always particularly challenging for the rescue services and their materials. We are therefore very grateful that Mercedes-Benz Special Trucks is providing us with this Unimog. The vehicle is absolutely perfect for our specific requirements and it will help us to help victims in a much more appropriate way.”
As well as mountain rescues the team can be called into action for floods and other emergencies, as far away as the French and Swiss borders. At this time of year, they are most often called to help injured skiers, and to search for any avalanche victims. Up to 600 operations are carried out every year.