Peak Reliability: Verizon Network Team Scales Icy Summit to Repair Tower at 10,000 Feet

During a winter in which snowstorms, sleet and ice frequently closed schools, roads and cities all over the nation, customers could depend on the Verizon Wireless network to stay in touch with fast, reliable service.

It wasn’t magic, but sometimes these high-tech heroics could have been from a movie.

One team of Verizon network experts had to scale the summit of Steens Mountain in Oregon to repair a cell site at an elevation of nearly 10,000 feet.

The secluded peak, in a rugged, rural and largely uninhabited region of the state, had experienced severe snow and ice storms.  The area is so remote that there is no commercial power.  Verizon runs the site on propane-fueled generators and batteries to provide wireless coverage for back country travelers and the sparsely-populated Harney County.

Wind gusts up to 150 miles per hour carrying heavy sheets of ice damaged the tower’s 4G LTE antennas, although Verizon 3G EV-DO service remained up and strong.

Soon after the storm subsided, engineers were scrambled to reach and repair the 4G LTE antenna array.  On the first long day of the alpine operation, a Sno Cat operator cleared a path through massive snowdrifts up the mountain. Day Two began at 4:30 a.m., with the Verizon team enduring chilling temperatures and the slow, steep trip to the summit.

Upon reaching the mountain peak, the team led by Verizon technician David Gilchrist still had to dig out the base of the cell site from thousands of pounds of snow before launching the high-tech repair.  Finally, antennas were replaced, 4G LTE service was restored, and Gilchrist’s squad returned to its dark, cold “base camp” outside of Burns, Oregon, 16 hours later.

“Our technical teams here and across the country often face pretty hostile conditions, and this winter has been especially harsh,” said James Johnston, Pacific Northwest network operations director for Verizon Wireless.  “But that’s our mission – to deliver the most reliable wireless service to customers no matter the circumstances.”

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