Yesterday I activated Great Rhos GW/MW-002 on 10MHz CW. Conditions were such that virtually everyone was S9 or louder. This made it extremely difficult to sort out one callsign from another. In all I managed to work 31 contacts in 35 minutes, but the process could have been much quicker had callers been more considerable. I am sure that several chasers lost out as a result.
These points have been made before, but once again my appeal is:
Please send your callsign only once. Leave a gap before you try again if the activator does not pick up a callsign.
Please do not net precisely, but spread out a little. It only needs a few 10s of hertz to make a difference - otherwise all the activator gets is a constant tone!
Most importantly listen, listen, listen. If the activator is asking for a F6 to send his callsign again, it doesn’t mean that all of Europe can call.
I must admit to being disappointed by the behaviour of some. I do not expect this of SOTA chasers… maybe in another portable scheme, well it happens often. Having said that, there were a number of callsigns logged that I do not recognise as regular SOTA chasers, so it may be bad behaviour learnt elsewhere that is the problem.
Many thanks for letting me know Allen. I’m not fussed whether I work a few or many. It’s the chasers that I feel sorry for. I did work the pile up until there were no more callers, but I am sure that some gave up in disgust… hopefully not of my operating! I’m also certain that some have me in their log as several phantom QSOs happened during the session, the person that I was working having to hold off sending their information until the frequency cleared.
I tried 20m later, but the conditions were not as good and I only made 6 QSOs. I did get a call from Gary K3TCU, but he obviously couldn’t hear enough of me to respond further. 30m was where the action was for me.
I have had the same experience here in the states a couple of times recently.
It is always on 20 meters and the main issue is when the band is really open and European DX is booming in. It can be a real mess.
My take is that it is more due to band conditions than poor operators. I don’t think the European stations can hear each other so they all pile on thinking they are in the clear.
It can be very frustrating and I try my best but with the wildly fluctuating band conditions I know some miss out. I end up sending question marks more than full callsign.
I take some of the blame too as I am not highly experienced in this area. Some times I just skip 20 meters so I can keep my sanity.
I am not a fan of working cw split on the lower bands, where in my opimion, the benefits are outweighed by the complexity. I am however a big advocate of spreading the signals out a 100Hz or so. I also recognise the limitation of my (ancient) FT 857 rx. By comparison with my Ten Tec Orion, I am sure it is RX IP performance that is the main gremlin.
It was a real pleasure to chase you on 30m and let me tell you how it happened:
I had been chasing for some time and after some minutes not seeing any new spot on SW3, I decided to leave the shack for some things I had to do. I had removed my reading glasses and had stood up from my shack chair, when I saw a new spot on SW3. Without my reading glasses on, I could read the frequency, but the callsign of the spotted station was kind of blur, not very clear and I didn’t recognised it. But I sat down again, switched my rig back on, went to the frequency and I realised I was copying to the activator (at this time, I didn’t know yet who it was). I called and was picked up. On your return you called me Guru and I realised it was someone I probably knew, but I still didn’t have my reading glasses on, so I responded with GM, your signal report and 73 GL TU. Once the QSO was over and I had logged you (copy from SW3 and paste to SAISIE SOTA program), I had my hands free, so I took my reading glasses and put them on. Then I saw clearly the callsign of the activator I had just worked and realised it was my friend Gerald using his other callsign. Thanks for the activation and the QSO!
Regarding the ethernal “Listen” plea to the chasers, I think it’s something some chasers will never learn to. Fortunately I have the feel they are not too many.
In case it’s of help for someone, let me tell you how I pick-up chaser callsigns when I’m activating and the pileup is big:
If I can quickly get a full callsing, I get back with the full callsign, of course.
When I can’t quickly get a full callsign, I pick-up just part of it (either preffix, suffix or parts in between) and then my return contains either ?SUFFIX or PREFFIX? or ?part-of-the-callsign? Let’s imagine G4OIG called in the pileup and I could only get 4OI
My return would be ?4OI? GM TNX UR 599 599 BK
Then Gerald (hopefully only Gerald) should come back with his full callsign: BK G4OIG GM GURU UR 599 599 TNX 73 GL TU E E
And now I will give Gerald’s full call in my last over for him to confirm that I got it correctly. G4OIG QSL DR GERALD 73 TU E E
It’s very rare, almost impossible that at least part of a callsign can’t be picked up in the pile up and following this method guarantees that there will always be a successfull QSO after every gap of chasers calling in the pileup, not needing to ask for repeats until a full callsign is picked up.
The faster an activator works the chasers in the pileup, the lesser anxiety and chaos in the pileup. It’s essential making a QSO after everytime the chasers call in the pileup. As we go on making QSOs, we will notice how the pileup decreases.
I hope you’ll find it useful.
I try to never give the report till I know the call. Learnt this doing contests etc. If I give a report and don’t have the call but the other guy does have my call then he needs no more info from me and will vanish into the ether to work another contest station. No report etc. and he will try to get his call to me and only then do I give the report. I do the same for SOTA.
similar experience here. The wall of QRM and only tailending works.
To the end of the pile up, the remaining people are more reasonable. They listen more and wait as well for others to get through. Then working stations speeds up again.
Haven’t tried split as I don’t know if stations will work split…
I agree that’s the best way to proceed in contests, at least for a non-rare-DX station, and I do the same, but the exchange in contest is different to that on SOTA QSOs, being the latter more relaxed even involving personal greetings, pleasanteries and even a few more overs sometimes.
In the CQ WW DX CW contest you would call CQ MM0FMF TEST
I’d respond EA2IF and it will very rarely be too many stations calling you at the same time. Surely less than in a SOTA activation after the first spot has been displayed on SW3.
Then you would come back EA2IF 5NN 14
And I would reply 599 14
You will finish with TU
On a SOTA activation you’d call something like CQ SOTA DE MM0FMF PSE K
I’d call you EA2IF EA2IF
Assuming you’d pick me up, you’d come back with EA2IF GM GURU UR 599 599 BK
Then my replay would be GM ANDY TNX UR 599 599 73 GL TU
And your final over would be QSL or CFM 73 TU
In both cases, 5 overs were needed to get the QSOs completed, but the length of the messages transmitted in each of the cases is very different.
But, of course, I find your MO perfectly logic and understandable. My MO is like that to try to speed up the QSOs trying not to have to ask QRZ? again because I couldn’t pick up a full callsign in the pile up.
Right now we have three active complaint threads: one on CW operating, one on phonetics and one on deliberate QRM. All three re-iterate points made in earlier threads. Anyone new to SOTA looking at this reflector would conclude that we are a right bunch of moaners! What makes it worse is that quite likely the people that cause the moans never look at the reflector, or as I have suggested before, if they do they don’t realise that it is they who are being complained about! Really, its an old, old story, similar complaints were being made when I first came to ham radio sixty years ago, though in those days they were in the form of letters to the editors of the various ham radio magazines. Recent articles about the Transatlantic Tests suggest that similar complaints were being made a century ago!
Winter bonus starts in 12 days, moaning will drop drastically once the bonus starts.
Now last year Gavin GM0GAV suggested we move the Scottish winter bonus forward 1 day relative to other UK associations. So that means 30-Nov to 14-Mar for GM. Then the bonus starts on St. Andrews day. I was fine with that. Nice for the GM WB to tie in with a Scottish Event
St. Andrews day is now a public holiday in Scotland. Today I was told that we will be getting St. Andrews day as a public holiday starting this year. Which means I get an extra day off compared to my colleagues working in our Reading and Exeter offices. And I now get the day off that the winter bonus starts on.
I have never activated in split, but I have several times chased in split. Chasers do work split with no problems or no major problems, as there will always be a few:
1- not noticing the ongoing split operation, thus calling on the activator frequency.
2- not able to configure his/her rig for split operation.
However, I don’t really support very much split operation for SOTA activations because split uses more KHz on the band and there are sometimes activators on 7.029, 7.031, 7.032, 7.033, 7034 at the same time. Same for 20m with activators on 14.059, 14.061, 14.062, 14.063, 14.064 at the same time. In case they all were wishing to work in split, there wouldn’t be enough KHz in our usual segment of the band and moving our SOTA QRP to other parts of the band would cause conflict with other QRO users.
But I must admit there are some special moments when split operation is the best solution.
I cannot remember a time when I have had to cut and run Pete. My ever-patient activation partner, Paul G4MD/G6GGP, has often packed up and is sitting sheltering from the weather while I finish off, working the run to a standstill.
Likewise a real pleasure to work you Guru… and on 20m as well, but with much poorer conditions and deep QSB on that band. One minute you were 599, the next 539. 30m was so much more stable.
Indeed, I lost count of the times I asked for a full callsign for CLT. Looking through SOTA information today, I can only assume that this was Tom HB9CLT, but every time I asked for the complete call I got several - not just one - callers, one of whom was a DJ6 whose callsign I didn’t get either. My sincere apologies to Tom if it was him.
Indeed that is my policy Andy, otherwise the person that you are working assumes all is okay and you end up with a complete QSO for someone without a callsign.
Me too David. On this particular activation almost everyone passed the “ability to net accurately” test, just when it wasn’t wanted. I did consider requesting a split, but I didn’t know if 1 up was clear without stopping to check (meaning a QSY to ask) and lots of chasers weren’t listening to my plain language anyway.
If the chasers had chosen to call say 1 in 3 times and send their callsigns just once, then the QRM would have been so much less and the QSO rate would have increased dramatically. The problem is basically a lack of patience. Human nature maybe, but we have to consider the repercussions of our actions. Okay, I worked 31 on 30m, but I am convinced that it could have been 50. I’ve still got a great log… unfortunately the losers were some of the chasers.
The use of a partial callsign with ? to indicate you are missing part of a callsigns is interpreted by some chasers to mean you have none of the callsign and you really want them all to send their callsigns again preferably at 30 wpm, twice.
Skip distances meaning the chasers cannot hear each other, so when you don’t respond immediately to their carefully sent double 30 wpm callsign, they assume you didn’t get it the first two times so they churn out a few more, when what you are actually wanting is some quiet so you can copy the 1w s2s caller.
It’s somewhat inevitable that these things happen, all you can do is somehow call for specific types of chasers, starting with s2s, then QRP? Or NA? Or SA? Or EU? But even those directional cqs can be misunderstood by a chaser who is convinced you just need to hear their call another time or two.
For this reason it is usually impossible for a VK/ZL to be heard amidst the din you are coping with. If the chasers don’t hear or heed your directional cqs, all bets are off. It’s then bedlam. The theory that getting the loud stations out of the way lets you work the weaker ones is opposite to the idea that a cold shivering activator on another summit with an almost dead battery deserves priority over the guy in the heated shack and the big amplifier and beam.
Its never ending, one dies off and another one starts!!
IMO SOTA pileups are small and only last a few minutes. Here are a few of my thoughts
Simplex pileups are difficult, send the call your working twice to give the pileup more time to sync up.
Work the loud callers quick as you can. S2S, QRS and weak stations are easy once the pileup is gone.
Get a partial call and stick with it. Develop it until you get a full call “DJ4 DJ4?”
Dont try to police a pileup with instructions like " QRX ONLY DJ4 ONLY DJ4 KN" just slows you down. The only way to tame a pileup is have the callers in your log!
If you want to see how a top Dxpedition op does it look here TI9/RA9USU - YouTube
This is Dima RA9USU, probably a huge pileup as working mix of EU / NA but we cant hear it. 5 QSO’s worked from partials in 1.5 minutes including sending his rather long callsign.
I am not saying we should try to copy this! But it demonstrates very efficient, simple and consistent operating which controls the pileup perfectly.