One of the elements of a safe winter travel plan includes a communications component. The following is a guide that can be used for planning purposes. We make no endorsement of any of the systems described and encourgage you to research a solution that works for your particular needs.
The respective county Sheriff's office has Search and Rescue responsibility in Oregon. If you are accessing the backcountry from the Joseph side, you are in Wallowa County. On the West Side you are in Union or Baker counties.
Emergency Contact number: 911
Baker County Sheriff's Office: 541-523-6415
Union County Sheriff's Office: 541-963-1017
Wallowa County Sheriff's Office: 541-426-3131
Cell Phones - Cell coverage is generally pretty good in populated area and major highways. Once you get into the backcountry, coverage is pretty spotty to non existant. Some areas have enough coverage to allow text messaging (sms) but not voice. You should plan on NOT having any cell service in the backcountry!
SPOT Personal Tracker Unit - We have used this unit in the Wallowas and it seems to work.The unit allows you to send a message and location indicating that you are OK. Emergency service is provided through a private rescue dispatch center.
Personal Locator Beacon - A number of new units are available including a unit that can sent a text message. PLB activations are dispatched through a government rescue dispatch center. This system is used by ships and aircraft around the world.
Satellite Phone - A number of different options. Both Globalstar and Iridium systems have been used in this area. May be affected by terrain and weather. Allow two-way voice communication
Amateur Radio - (FCC Licence Required) A number of repeaters around the area provide coverage deep into the backcountry with handheld radios. We have used amateur repeaters from Wing Ridge, McCully, Aneroid Basin, and Fish Lake / Russel Mountain area quite sucessfully. Some repeaters are connected to the Echolink system which allows remote access and linking from anywhere in the world. You can find information about obtaining an amateur radio licence here.
Listing of Amateur Radio Repeaters that may be useful for backcountry communications:
NOTE: These systems are privately maintained amateur radio systems. WAC is not responsible for the accuracy of this information, as it is subject to change. We will do our best to keep it up to date, but you should always verify system status yourself and have contingency plans.
Echolink, coverage into Aneroid Basin,
Mc Cully, Wing Ridge (above about 7,500 ft)
|Cascade, ID.||W7VOI||146.620 -||100.0||Snowbank Mt. Good coverage in Southern Wallowas|
|McCall, ID.||KC7MCC||147.020 +||100.0||
No Business Mtn. Good coverage in Southern Wallowas
|Grangeville, ID.||KC7MGR||146.680 -||100.0|
|Grangeville, ID.||K7EI||444.950 +||100.0||Cottonwood Butte, Linked into Lewiston, ID.|
|Lime||W7NYW||145.170 -||110.9||Linked to Beaver Mtn|
|Beaver Mtn||W7NYW||145.270 -||110.9||Linked to Lime|
|Spout Springs||WA7SDV||146.800 -||100.0||Heavily used, usually someone monitoring|
|Spout Springs||K7EI||444.725+||136.6||Linked to Cottonwood Butte and several other repeaters|
|La Grande||W4PJS||146.980 -||100.0||Echolink, 11 to connect to KB7DZR, # disconnect|
|Mt. Fanny||K7RPT||147.260 +||None|
|Mt. Fanny||W7NYW||145.150 -||110.9||
Normaly Linked to Beaver and Lime.
|Mt. Harris UHF||W7URG||444.925+||146.2||Currently down (1/12)|