My First CW Activation - G/DC-002

By the way, the standard code for “summit reference” is the code REF.

So you would send “REF G/DC002” (don’t worry about the dash)

And you don’t have to send it on every contact or even every CQ. Just every few contacts. If the chasers have found you via sotawatch they all have your summit code staring at them off a screen anyway.


Many thanks John for your activation report and video - as someone who is trying to relearn my CW after 30+ years of inactivity its a great encouragement to keep persevering, and more importantly having a go. I know I’ll make the most improvement by getting on the air but its having the confidence to make that first step!


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Hello John

It’s like everything else in life… it’s all a matter of practice and experience.
I hope you won’t get discouraged now.

The activator sets the rules. He sets the speed and the order.

Andrew is right when he suggests slowing down the tempo of the CW call. Let it run at a speed that you can receive well - to set the speed for the others

I would be happy to hear you again in cw.

73 Armin


Thanks for the write-up, John, and congratulations on your first CW activation. Terrifying, isn’t it?! I think my recent experience doing the same was very similar to yours - both in terms of my competence, the patience of the chasers, and the fact that I’ll definitely be doing more :slight_smile:

A shame we didn’t make contact on 2m SSB - you would have added one more to my count of grid squares worked in the backpackers contest. Next time!

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Yes! But it should get easier - I hope. :slight_smile:

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Hi John,


I made my first CW activations some weeks ago with about 11 or 12 wpm and the chasers came with the same speed. It was fine.

Have fun on your next CW activations!!!

73 Ludwig


Well done John in dipping your toe in the water by using CW from the top of a mountain and being brave enough to video the results for all to see!

Not everyone will agree, but its much easier operating in Morse from home than it is on a summit whether in SOTA, Contesting or just day to day rubber stamp / rag chew contacts.

At home you will likely have a better key, you will be more comfortable rather than hunched up on the ground and you will be more relaxed overall as a hunter rather than as the hunted.

The only other point of note I would say on top of the excellent tips you have already received is if you have a home station then practice your CW there - ideally as a SOTA Chaser. You will pick up good experience just by listening around 7032/10118/14062 or whatever freq you see spotted. You will learn the callsigns of the usual suspects among the SOTA chasers and you will probably remember either their full or partial callsigns when you are next operating from the summit, which will help your callsign recognition and reduce the likelihood of having to ask for a repeat when they call you.

Good luck - I can tell that you will stick at the Morse (Many fall by the wayside) and with time could become a very good operator indeed I’m sure!

Most of us older hands learnt the Morse Code before SOTA was conceived - the incentive then was that you could not not use HF without passing a 12 WPM send and receive Morse test with almost 100% accuracy. Many hams from that period passed the test and rarely or never used the mode again. The others such as me and many more amateurs here and elswhere, enjoyed the code so much, improved their skills in using it and it became their favourite mode. There are also a few, in the last 15 years or so who did not need to pass a Morse test to be able to operate on HF and from these a small number took to the mode well. They are in a minority, but you could well be one of these guys I would say.

73 Phil G4OBK


The video isn’t terrifying - unless you are highlighting the subject is ‘terrified’.
I still find my finger hovering over the spot button on Sota Spotter when about to announce a CW activation, however the dread is slowly subsiding. And last night on Seat Sandal I felt it was time to go ‘all-in’ and do my first CW-only activation. Sending slowly is the key and you’ll find the really savvy chasers will match your speed perfectly, and as you send at that speed all the time it just sounds lovely in response.

My trouble is fixating on letters in a callsign which turn out to be wrong - and are very obvious in a playback. Those who want the points will be patient. Not sure who holds the record for the longest start-finish time for a CW QSO but it has to be more than a dozen minutes at least. Last night SP9AMH was a good ten minutes, partly because of my fixation and partly because I had S8 noise on 80m and it was just really hard to pull the callsign out of the noise. Mind, that is a good distance for 80m!

Just keep forcing yourself to do CW activations, chase when you can, and learning what is tripping you up - then forcing yourself to get that corrected. Like most things SOTA a healthy appreciation of how much masochism is required to be good at this hobby helps!

Mark. M0NOM.

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Spot on, nerves certainly affect my ability to transmit - and dull my hearing too. :slight_smile: I tried listening to one of my apps, CW Trainer, this morning while walking the dog and after turning it down from the 22 WPM I had been using to 15 WPM I was suddenly able to read everything the first time. A revelation! :slight_smile:

Listening again to the recording I have a suspicion EA1JD might have been using a straight key as I am sure they slowed down while transmitting - or maybe just sending each dot and dash individually and not holding down the paddles to let the keyer choose the rate?

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I stopped practicing a while back every day and although I’ve not gone backward I am not making any progress speed wise. Anything about 13 wpm becomes challenging.

Could be straight key, or someone using an external keyer with a speed knob, or a rig with an easily accessible speed control. I don’t have one of those, but I’m sure they must exist. Same thing happened with one of the chasers last night.

I also find the contesters turn up the ‘wick’ when they get to the 599, regardless of what speed the preamble was at.


Good for you!
You can always ask the other op to QRS (slow down)


Contest programs like N1MM, for instance, let you write the text of preset messages to be sent when pushing the F keys and you can insert symbols like ++ and - - making the text in between be sent at a higher (+) or lower (-) speed than the rest of the message.
Additional micro pause symbols can also be inserted to make farnsworth spacing.




Even people who can’t do Morse can spot the 50wpm “brrrp dahdt dahdit” report in a contest QSO :slight_smile:


Ludwig, thank you, going for a much slower speed seems to be the answer. :slight_smile:

I wonder if any memory keyers can deal with farnsworth?
my CW is still at extreme newbie status and i currently can only copy about 15wpm characters with huge (5WPM) gaps between them
its also really hard to explain that over CW that i want longer gaps between letters not slower dots and dahs (in fact if they are too slow it makes it super hard!)

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I own this keyer…

…having a selectable way to record the memory messages. Either exactly as they are produced by the user (farnsworth) or with the exact spacing corresponding to the used wpm speed.
I guess other keyers also offer this option but not all probably.


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Hi John,
I see that exactly how @DL1CR it motivates me to do Morsecode :slight_smile:

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I learned the basics with the app Morse Mania. I used this to learn to recognise the letters and numbers. For more advanced training Morse Runner is good but it only works on a PC. RufzXP is an evil PC program :slight_smile: which plays callsigns and gets faster and faster if you respond correctly.

All the advice is not to learn at too slow a speed because you shouldn’t be counting dots and dashes but recognising the sound of the character. I would start at around 15 wpm but as I learned on this activation on a summit you may need to go slower. :slight_smile:

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Send that way… If you send 15wpm characters but with big gaps then the other side should pick up on the fact you are sending differently. Good operators see how their QSO partners work and try to get a QSO by adapting.


Excellent progress and very bold! I am where you are right now with CW/Morse and this has inspired me to give it a go! I also agree that bigger gaps between characters helps a lot. Individual characters at 17-20 WPM no problem. Only when they are run together closely, problems arise for me.