Highwire Activation (W7W/SN-177)

Just wanted to say thanks to everyone who came back to my call today on Highwire and was super patient with me. It was my first CW activation ever and was rather stressful, since I’m still a budding CW op.

Sorry to anyone who came back to my after my first call and the confusion shortly after, especially those first two QSOs, which didn’t make it into my log. Lesson learned: I made the mistake of trying out a new app that I hadn’t tested beforehand, and that caused a bit of unnecessary confusion and frustration on my end :smiley:.

I’ll share what happened on the summit, since it is a little hilarious. After my first CQ I got a moderate pileup (my first ever), and I was trying furiously to get the application to accept the log entries. After a few tries I realized I was missing some required information to save the QSO (freq, mode). To fix this, I decided to set my paddles down, and they fell off and bounced around on the ground, sending random dits and dahs. After two or three QSOs, I realized I bodged a few entries in the app and I needed to fix them up before completely forgetting about them. This time I turned QSK on the radio off to fix them up rather than risking some spurious CW. After everything was all good, I called QRZ? and CQ SOTA a few times, and stations were throwing their call out occasionally; I thought I was getting through, but I never was being heard since my break-in was turned off :roll_eyes:. It wasn’t until a few minutes later of frustration not getting anyone to acknowledge that I realized I forgot to turn my break in back on :rofl:.


Which is why the sensible activator logs with a pencil and paper. :wink:


Hah, I did have paper logs as a backup, and I nearly did switch to them before I got the app working.


Two pencils sharpened both ends, ordinary paper, waterproof paper. Those three things have never failed in 656 activations.

I have spent years being fascinated by and using assorted portable computing devices including databanks, assorted Psion organisers, Palm organisers, tablets and phones. I’ve been using smart phones since a long time before Apple thought about them and I’ve been writing software for a living for 38 years and have provided software for the manufacturers of many of these devices. I’ve seen them all and owned examples of most. I use a pencil and paper when activating.


Blah blah blah…Congrats man. You’ll perfect your technique as time goes on. All that other stuff is ‘Points for Style’. The main thing is you did it and learned from it and had fun. I’m a couple weeks behind you and feeling some trepidation of attempting the same thing. Again congrats from a fellow W7W guy.

Great story Drew! Now I know I need to improve my cw skills before assaulting a SOTA peak.


Good work, Drew! The more you do it, the more you’ll like it.
It’ll get easier once you get a system going. I do most of my
portable operating in the mobile, and I still use paper/pencil
to log after 50 years of doing it.
Tnx for the summit !

Thanks Ed! I would say start getting out and activating summits as soon as you’re able to accurately collect calls and pull out a signal report. I still have to get a call 2 or 3 times but IMO it’s better to learn on air than being an eternal CW student. I still have trouble with some of the prosigns and abbreviations that folks use.

Looking forward to hearing you from on top of a summit :slight_smile:!

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Well done and keep up the good work with CW. I use pencil and paper too for logging on the summit then enter it once home. My problem is seeing the screens on devices out in bright sunlight although I do see others on TY logging into a device. I hope the ones you did not log at the start can still count the score as a chaser, one thing to remember looking after the chasers. Only half of Andy’s score on summits just into the 300’s.
vk5cz …

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Drew - I have been activating for a little over a year, took me 4 times climbing before first activation actually happened then a slow start with 6 cw Q’s. It will all come together with time on top, re adjusting equipment, and experience. Enjoy the excitement of SOTA, hope to work you from the top. Al N1SMB

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I started howling as soon as I saw the word “app” in your account, but I almost fell out of my chair when I read more. You are brave to tell the truth to the whole world here, but most of your story is familiar - the details vary from one operator to the next! Using CW is quite a mental challenge, and anyone that tries it early-on for SOTA is in for some stress at first!

I’ve done more activations than most, HF CW with large piles, and I’ve done almost all of them with a cheap clipboard, a ballpoint pen, and a piece of paper. Improvements include using a homemade form for logging neatly - the choices of pen and paper matter in cold or wet weather. I carry a pencil and a couple of index cards for backup. Few of the veteran activators use apps or devices for logging, and some of us almost never use a phone. There are more important things to focus on. Most glitzy technology will be a distraction for running the pile on CW.

This is subtle - you’ll do much better writing your log with one hand, while using your other hand to send with the paddles. How you work this out is your choice. Ideally the paddles need to be right near the text you’re writing, because you do need to use both hands. Unless you mount the paddles on your clipboard or log, you may need to hold them onto your surface with the same hand you write with. I learned to do this a long time ago, and it’s easier than it seems. You can move the paddles wherever you want them on the logsheet, or even hold them in your writing hand. It would be good to have three hands…

Sometimes the wind blows your gear away, even your entire log, and animals often show up to take your lunch! Dropping paddles just happens, unless you mount them. Dropping them in the snow can be a disaster - they won’t send right, until you blow out the snow.

Mounting paddles on your radio is dubious, especially if your radio isn’t near your log. I keep my radio on the ground beside me, for several good reasons, and the paddles can’t be there.

You’ll get a lot of different advice from all these experts here, but I just wanted to throw in mine before you pay much attention to the other guys. Most of this stuff is “personal preference”, whatever that means.

The one electronic logging tool that makes sense is an audio recorder. In very cold weather this can help avoid freezing fingers, and you don’t have to write at all, or even decode the messages, so you can just complete your log when you’re home nice and warm! I bought one but have never used it yet!

Some of my first activations were pretty rough too, and I learned a lot of tricks the hard way…this is fine! Most of tell our tales after we get past the tricky parts - you’re exceptionally open - you’ll be fine!


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There is a place for using paper and pencil v. A logging app. The tablets and phones can be hard to read in bright sunlight, so I try to work out whether that will be the case in advance and plan accordingly. I mostlly do use logging on vk port-a-log and sometimes I set up a shade tent for the entire station, sometimes a little dowel and shopping bag tent just for the radio and tablet. I still carry a book and pens as a backup. The convenience of being able to send those files to sotadata without needing to retype is worth the occasional inconvenience in my book.

The best practice for pileup handling is contests. The contesting app MorseRunner (windows only) is a great way to get that practice hearing just one callsign among a group of callers.

The log with one hand, send with the other technique is very handy, I haven’t mastered it but I do a little bit of that with the aid of the logging app. Lots of data entries can be poked at with one finger even while sending with the other hand. Takes practice, like riding no hands.

73 Andrew VK1DA/VK2UH

The database apparently has at least some of the answers, including who those first two callers probably were… :wink:

I find my mobile phone useful for a few specific tasks during an activation.

  • for Sat-Nav (as back-up to a GPSr) to guide me to the activation zone,
  • for SOTAwatch spots either via SOTA Spotter or the main website,
  • for local weather forecasts,
  • as a camera,
  • and, of course, as a phone.

Logging my contacts is most definitely not in the list, as I find screen keyboards are a bit error-prone even in good conditions, and hopeless when it’s slightly damp or cold. Even at home sitting in front of my main computer I still use pen and paper as my primary logging tools. On SOTA activations I prefer a pencil and waterproof paper, and when working CW I also like to have a small scrap paper pad handy, though that was one of the items I left behind last time I was out…

I use a small shallow steel baking tray to keep my radio, log book, and key together. The magnet on the key base holds it firmly to the tray.