Do you operate CW only, even S2S?

Currently I’m SSB/FM only. One thing I’ve noticed is I’ll be on a summit and I’ll see a S2S opportunity. Unfortunately at times it may be a CW op, (which I’m still learning). Giving me no way to work them. I know, good incentive to keep up the CW practice.

I realize some OP’s only have CW rigs and be very minimalistic but if you see someone OTA that is operating SSB and you have a SSB capability, do you still only stick to CW and pass them by?


A.J., as an s2s specialist with 6,120 contacts summit to summit, I have a different experience than yours, where “at times” you find that a s2s opportunity may be a CW op. I was on a peak today, s2s only, and the whole log is CW. I have a mike, but I couldn’t hear any SSB ops who were spotted. From 1700 UTC to the end of the day, there were 76 North American spots, three of which were SSB, plus yours. On my prior activation, two days ago, my log was all CW except for AD6VT. I definitely don’t pass by any SSB activator, since I’m in competition with the Swiss. Keeping up the CW practice seems to be the answer to your situation. Have a try on a peak very soon, even it has to be 5 WPM and repeated requests for QRS. Take a CW op with you.

Regards, Elliott K6EL


Whenever I go to a summit and have cell phone reception there (which is not a given) I check SOTAGOAT for feasible S2S.

However, I distinguish whether it is or could become a complete for me, because I still want to activate the summit itself…
if I have a chance to reach the S2S at all, because some of them are besieged by so many chasers and are so weak, that it becomes nearly impossible for me to be heard.

For the latter, my endurance of calling is limited.

For all these actions, I don’t care about the mode at all. I always have an Icom V 80 with me to be active even in 2m FM. But I take it out of the backpack only every 50th activation… and actually only for S2S.

But in general I also make most QSO and thus also S2S in CW.

I am always very happy when other activators are my chasers.

73 Armin


I usually only operate CW on HF plus 2m FM. I have homebrew CW only rigs and my first priority on a new summit is to qualify with the homebrew rig so that I can count it towards my aim of becoming a homebrew goat. I do sometimes have my FT817 with me and have worked S2S on SSB but I find it so much harder work than CW. To be honest I just prefer CW as it doesn’t involve shouting into a microphone and is so much more successful with QRP. Having said that, there are many SSB only operators who do extremely well.


I also operate 99% CW in HF and 2m FM (with big unsuccess!), but I don’t search for S2S. If they come it’s a good news however. At my age SSB radio+mike are loud for ascents of over 500-1000m (100% in my region).
On a summit the silence is gold and with CW no problem to disturb anyone.


I tend to operate on my favourite modes - CW and FT4/8 - but switch to SSB if I spot a S2S opportunity on SW. More often than not I’ll do some running on SSB as that is another good way to obtain S2S QSOs.

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I have only used morse/cw since becoming a ham about 5 years ago.*

That obviously includes S2S QSOs, many of which were weak signals which, had they been SSB I may not have heard at all.



Overall, about 55% of all SOTA-QSOs are in fone (SSB 37%, FM 18%), but personally I use CW most of the time, mainly for the above stated reasons.


The reason for CW comes from the automatic RBN detection and SOTA posting.
Often there is no Network available in some of the locations. Then it is very handy to post the activation in advance from home and then just operate from the peak.

If there is a network available, SSB is an option - as I can post the frequencies I am on.

Furthermore, CW only TRX have a very low current consumption.So no reason to carry much up the hills. No other than that here for CW…



Hi A.J.,
Most of the time when I’m activating, I do have SSB capability. IF I have cell service and see a spot for an activator using SSB, I will check to see whether I can hear the op IF I think probabilities are good. Obvious factors are band, distance and time of day. I have to admit that if any of those factors are unfavorable, since most of the bands on my transceiver are already set to a CW-only portion of the band, I’m normally disinclined to bother to plug in a SSB frequency and switch modes unless I think probabilities are good. Having thought too much about this, I’ve realized that the vast majority of my SSB S2S contacts have been during the W1 and W4 campouts, during which there have been lots of SSB activators in relatively close proximity.
So the short answer to your original question is: If I see a spot for a SSB activator AND I can hear the op, I will try. I like S2S points, and maybe I’ll make a friend.

Possibly off your original question topic: Factors that favor CW S2S:

  1. The RBN: I always Alert, and seldom self-spot, and being reliably, automatically spotted by the RBN increases the probability that other activators will see my spot and try to chase me.
  2. Obviously, CW goes further at low power.
  3. On a relaxed activation, when I have time to tune around looking for other activators, I find searching in the narrower CW portion of the bands less cumbersome. Could be that being CW-mostly I’m not as familiar with where SSB ops tend to hang out.
  4. When tuning around, I often find an activator by hearing the callsign of a regular chaser. That’s more likely to happen with the faster, concise CW contacts than with the sometimes chattier SSB contacts.
    I agree completely with Elliott regarding having a try on a peak soon. I’m probably an anomaly here, having gotten my license in my 50’s (5wpm) and having not gotten my speed up until I was in my 60’s. It was SOTA , and the patient and persistent chasers and activators who helped me get there. I’d also add, if you have the time, also try chasing CW. I’ve found that most activators will slow down for you, and I found that chasing not only helped me get my speed up, it helped me learn about activator/chaser behaviors.

Paul - N1ZF



the reason i only do CW for SOTA, including S2S, is that i need to be “ultralight” due to physical disability. With a QCX-mini, a DIY wire dipole, and a small battery, my whole radio gear weight is about 1 to 1.5 pounds.


Hi AJ,

I agree with previous comments. Except for those who do ‘hunt and pounce’ on S2Ss [a minority sport] most CW operators treat S2Ss as a bonus because they are time limited / weather limited / using QRP or CW-only or monoband rig / have no mic / don’t look at spots once QRV / no phone network / etc.

But the good news is you’re probably ready for CW QSOs before you realize …

Once you are comfortable receiving combinations of letters and numbers at 5wpm, you are ready to try SOTA CW QSOs. Most chasers will slow to or near your sending speed. The golden rule is: [tempting though it is] don’t send faster than you can receive. If they won’t slow down, ignore them, they will get bored and go away.

For a valid SOTA contact you and your chaser need only to exchange callsigns and reports. One is not required to record the reports in your uploaded SOTA logs [I don’t any more – logged reports became a ‘write-only memory’]. Purists will argue with me, but even if sometimes you mess up hearing or writing the incoming report, that’s okay [No one will know].

Focus on getting callsigns correct. If you mangle writing down his/her SOTA reference you can always look it up when you get home [using the SOTA Spots Settings – Spots in last 24 hours]. With practice, you won’t need to do that.

You don’t need to add or understand any of the usual pleasantries most of us add (like “ga” “tks” “73”). The contact can be very brief. In fact, other chasers waiting in a pile-up will be grateful for your brevity.

Remember, “Perfect is the enemy of Good” – don’t wait until you can copy ragchews 100% - and don’t worry about making mistakes – we all do.

Good luck, Andy G8CPZ / M0ALC


I’m still a beginner at CW and have found if I start an activation on SSB then I tend to stay on SSB as I keep putting off the change to CW. :slight_smile:

The answer for me is to start on CW and work on that mode, typically changing to VHF/UHF voice modes at the end to contact local chasers.

I don’t normally actively chase S2S contacts but will occasionally. An exception recently was the Trans-Atlantic QSO Party where I chased S2S from the outset. This was using CW but only because I couldn’t hear anyone in NA using SSB.

But as others have said it can be hard breaking into an SSB pile-up using QRP. It takes patience and sitting on a cold summit my patience threshold is shorter than when trying the same from the warm shack. :slight_smile:


Hi AJ,
I have many qrp cw only rigs but, most of the time I use my reliable KX2.
I almost never spot myself on SSB mode but I really enjoy chasing S2S so if I’m with my KX2 and see an activator that I am almost sure to be heard by him like you on 40m, I give it a try but unfortunately, 10w on voice isn’t always easy.
By the way, your callsign will sound very well in cw and will be easy to isolate from a pileup.
I am looking forward to have a S2S qso with you on cw, good luck in learning this mode.
73, Éric VA2EO


As a CW novice I wonder how many activators shivering on a summit working a pileup would welcome my hopeful call at 10-12wpm (on a good day) even if it is a S2S? Might be different if I’m the activator and can control incoming calls though. I’m eagerly working up to my first CW contact. For now, it’s QRP SSB for me but my beginner’s clumsy sending will soon be heard I hope. CW QSOs on summits will be even more fun than voice, I reckon.:grinning:


As long as you can send your callsign CLEARLY I don’t mind how slow you send.

I’d suggest getting someone else to listen to your morse - perhaps record it onto a phone and play it (or post it here) and get comments on it. Common errors in sending are:-
Not enough gaps between letters and/words.
Dashes too short - hard to tell difference between dots & dashes.
Final dash in a letter ending with more than one dash often ends up too short - W, J, O,
then end up sounding like R, P & G.

Good luck!!



I’d be happy to be called by you. Slow morse might actually stand out from the cacophony that I sometimes struggle to decode. As Dave says, just make sure the morse is clear. Unfortunately some chasers send some pretty awful morse. I think the biggest problem is when the gaps are too short.


Excellent advice Dave. Many thanks for the tips which make good sense (more than my practice sending does sometimes… :rofl:)

Much appreciated Richard and very encouraging. Another push at practice and I might just get there before too long :grinning:


I want to echo that, Dave (and your list of common errors) - their callsign is often the worst of their sending - all crushed together.

Ironically, too higher speed can also be an issue. Some operator’s Morse sending worsens as they speed up. I think it might have been you or another Morse ex-Pro who wrote on this reflector that professional CW operators didn’t send as fast as they can but at a speed that ensured not having to repeat sending.

Unfortunately, sending Morse is like driving a car - we do it well albeit a bit slow after passing the test but due to inattention bad habits creep in over the years which don’t get corrected due to lack of self analysis and feedback from others. We should take a pride in both and do them well every time.


I operate 90% CW…but I try to work all of the s2s stations that I am able to hear on SSB.

The problem is SSB is always weaker than CW when operators run QRP.

As a result most stations I work on SSB are not running QRP.

I would work more SSB stations, but bottom line is they are much harder to hear and work.


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