How SOTA CW QSO is getting faster and easier

2011: SOTA CW QSO content is completely transferred through short-wave radio channel to your radioamateur equipment. The interesting notes on weather and conditions with some kind words are also being transmitted by your radio and morse keying device. The required occupied bandwidth is less than 100 Hz, time up to 5 minutes or so.

2018: There is no SOTA CW QSO content being transferred through short-wave radio channel. The report is not very important. The call sign, the most important part of the QSO, the whole six letters, is usually transferred through wide channels - LTE, Wi-Fi channel or fixed cable instead, fixed wireless broadband and microwave internet. In fact, nowadays being a (very bad) chaser, all you need to know is how your call sign sounds in morse code.

I know, it is very simplified view, but the required morse code knowledge tends to be weaker and weaker as time goes by…



Yes, the trend is indeed in this direction.

Luckily, there are still many CW QSOs on the bands that are not exclusively geared towards diplomas, points and rankings.


Working CW is often the only possible way for me to keep on playing ham radio and making QSOs.

  • Why?
  • Simple, because speaking out to a microphone, repeating over and over, callsing, signal report, my name, my qth, my equipment, the wx conditions is not only exhausting for me but also something most of people find boring and annoying… My wife and kids are of course among them, so my [by-far] preferred mode for chasing is definitely CW because I can always do it with headphones, never disturbing anybody at the home QTH.
    Similar thing when activating SOTA. If there’s no people in the summit I feel free to activate on phone and speak out loud to the microphne, although it’s far more exhausting for me than CW, but in those crowded summits, I feel uncomfortable punishing people with the hammering repetition of callsign, signal report, 73, QRZ? and so on.

CW is not only my preferred mode, it’s the rescue boat for my hobby.
I often let phone activators go without even calling them because I don’t want to disturb my family. CW is great and I can play it at anytime I want.




Hi Karel,
I see your point - but there is also a very positive side of this: SOTA has become a great motivation for people to learn CW, and I think it is also good that people can get on-air experience with the simplified, contest-style QSOs from/to many summits, and as their command of CW increases, add a wider variety to their QSOs, e.g. op name, wx, ref, ant, …

73 de Martin, DK3IT


Karel, can you imagine what my dear chasers would say if I were rag chewing about wx and the like with one of them, while the approaching qsb and my qrt time eat their last hope to log that rare summit in the faraway land known as Bosnia. And if they really care about weather in this part of the world, I guess they would be better served by our friends from

On the other hand, our old cw is still more human, more informative, and more interesting than the robotic JT modes.


Zoran / E70AA


I learned CW just for SOTA. I never was a ragchewer on SSB. And that will carry over to CW.
Roland K7FOP


When I recently read that in the ARRL News:

… I was wondering how realistic the following scenario, still fictitious at the moment, would be in the next, say, 20 years (…):

In FT8 SOTA Mode, a SOTA activator station is the Fox, and the SOTA chaser stations are Hounds … The Fox also can transmit up to five signals simultaneously, upping the potential contact rate to 600 SOTA chasers/hour. “With expected signal levels and likely levels of QRM, sustained rates of several hundred SOTA QSOs/hour are expected to be possible,” the User Guide asserts?


The other half world of SOTA opened to me! The next step is to be a specialist, who knows?
SOTA require quick QSOs, if you think that activators meet some times difficult situations on the summits. So, if somebody wishes more time for contacts and exercise, can find a cw club for this reason. Everything depends on his own decision! GL!!!


Sota is the only reason I am learning cw. It’s also moved to me buying my first rig kit, the qcx rig. The world of cw has always been an interest but Sota was the kick start I needed to start cw.


Me too posts have limited value, I know. But this might be a time where it’s worth it: I learned CW specifically because of SOTA as well.


In 2007 I met HA3HK, Zoli on the bands, I told him then my family and I were going to Hungary in August for holidays. Unfortunately we did not meet then but we kept contact. August 2008 was coming up and back we went to lake Balaton, close to my hungarian friend whom I never met before but had done already several qso’s with and exchanged many, many email with.
Finally we met, we talked and talked about many things amongst them SOTA. Zoli invited us to come with him and his wife and son to a sota nearby with a good view toward other sota points and lake Balaton and make also some qso’s. So of we were, it was also the day I saw how Zoli was working sota chasers in CW. Many years followed in Hungary, together with Zoli and his family we conquered many sota hills, I worked SSB, zoli worked CW. I saw with what ease he was doing this, at speeds many can’t follow, reducing his speed when a qrs called in. I did not only see how he did it, I also saw with what he did it, some sort of paddle which had been a relay. I got interested more and more and at a certain moment I decided to learn CW. I asked Zoli to help me with hints and tips. After some time I got the hang of it and now I use CW in 95% of my time behind the radio.
I consider HA3HK my CW elmer and SOTA one of the reasons I learned CW. I only wish I had learned it earlier, I’ll never get to speeds my elmer is doing (45wpm is easy for him) but I make qso’s at home and when activating hills. It has already resulted in many nice qso’s and has made my backpack light since I can use QRP power now. An MTR3B or my KX2 is all I need, some wire and a key made out of an old relay.

Current bad CDX call for quick contacts, propagation sometimes changes in 1 minute from working statesside to working only Europe or worse on some bands, so quick qso’s are the only possibiltiy to work as many people as possible.
For those who want to make ragchew qso’s, there are many activators who like that, I’m sure, maybe wait untill the pile-up is done and then call in.

CW will always be the number one mode in SOTA. Why, look at what a cw op takes with him and then look at the backpack an ssb activator has to take to work the same distances… …



According to the “Facts and Figures” on the Database, the total number of CW contacts in SOTA is an impressive 2,008,315 - but the total number of phone contacts (SSB+FM) is 2,471,277, so there are more contacts made by talking than there are by bleeping!:smiley:

Since intercontinental contacts are frequently made on phone, I guess that what you are really saying is that a microphone is heavier than a morse key!:wink: Actually my thermos flask weighs more than my rig…at least, going up!

Me too.

I like the speed and efficiency of CW operating for SOTA activating and chasing. I learned CW, like many others it seems, SPECIFICALLY to make SOTA contacts. Does that make me a bad person?

1 Like

No more than prefering the sound of a voice makes me a bad person!

We have here a classic case of topic drift - the initial point was that CW contacts are becoming too streamlined and formulaic and the required knowledge of CW is diminishing, now it seems to be moving to whether CW or phone is better, a topic that has been gone over many times before and will never be resolved!


The post immediately before yours was 100% on topic Brian.

If you say so, Tom!

I felt that as Moderator it was my job to point out that the topic was drifting onto ground that has been thoroughly covered in other threads and to point us back to the points made by the original poster. I’m all for topic drift keeping things interesting but extolling the virtues of CW over phone once again - well, its decidedly old hat!

Actually I think that many phone contacts have become too streamlined and formulaic, too. Probably justified with the current below par propagation and QSB, though.

Actually Brian, I think you may have misinterpreted several posts in this thread. I count two posts in this entire thread that are exclusively to do with the CW vs Phone debate, and you yourself are responsible for 50% of them!

All the rest continue the discussion about the style of CW operating for SOTA - ie, on-topic to the original post, although some have a bit of preamble first to describe context.

The point people, including me, are making about learning CW BECAUSE of SOTA, is to explain why many of us are happy to simply complete the QSO in a SOTA contact. That’s why we learned the mode - not to discuss meteorology, or other topics best left to 80m SSB on a weekday morning.

I wasn’t clear enough. My initial post could be shorter.

2011: 100% of the CW QSO transferred through shortwave channel.

2018: Very significant amount of data that should be transmitted to your radio by CW mode goes through completely different pathways. Thus in fact morse code serves only as an acknowledgement.



Yep. I can at least try to operate CW even if everyone else is in the room is watching TV (or whatever).

While I didn’t learn it just for SOTA, it was SOTA that got me started, and kept me going…

Especially when the activator’s running relatively slow Morse. I tend to use something between 12 and 15wpm when I’m on a summit. If conditions are poor then there isn’t time for more than the minimum callsign, RST (and, ideally, REF) exchange. If I ever get to the point where I can read Morse at twice that speed, then maybe there’ll be time for rag-chew.

I always (well, unless I forgot to pack it!) take a microphone as well as a Morse key…

If I’m chasing I usually use spots (off the Net) as a way of confirming I have heard the activator’s callsign and the summit reference correctly. There are activators who don’t send either their own callsign or their summit reference nearly often enough for my liking, though. I hope, when I’m activating, that I’m not one of them. I try to make sure I send my call and reference often enough, but at 12wpm in poor propagation conditions I might fall short…

Hello Heinz,

I believe we’ll witness such a shift in the next 2 or 3 years. (Hopefully without changing our well established names: Activators and Chasers.) It will bring even further reduction in the amount of information exchanged over the ham radio channels and decoded by the human operators, but will allow for more reliable contacts and more successful sota expeditions.

Of course, it is all OK for ham radio operators who do not enjoy operating aspect of the hobby! (Contradictio in adjecto, isn’t it?) For those who enjoy being in control beyond getting the technical stuff (antenna, power, trx and atu setting, etc.) ready, good old cw, in the contest, ragchewing, or whatever other form and style, is still the way to go.


Zoran / E70AA