SOTA Activations w/ CW

All, I am learning cw right now and have started chasing summits. I had a blast the other night and got 3 contacts, all 6 point summits. I ran all ssb but want to work some cw summits as they seem to understandably be more available. During my cw learning I heard over and over again to not respond to a cq if your speed is not up to par. Does this apply to summit activations as well? Are you activators ok with SLOW cw?

That is wrong! If you can read the call in the CQ then answer at your own best speed. The other person should slow down to your speed, it is considered very rude not to.

73, Colin G8TMV


Welcome to wonderful world of CW. Yes, by all means answer. I definitely gladly slow down.

73, Barry N1EU

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Welcome to CW!
Personally I do not slow down when activating because I do it with a FT-817ND and it’s not practical to pause the activation to start searching for the menu where the morse speed can be slowed down.
What I do is not activating too fast -I usually do it at 22 WPM- and increasing the spacing significantly (called farnsworth) as well as doing repeats of the critical information e.g. callsign, report and SOTA ref. if requested.
I’m looking forward to chasing you on CW some day soon.



Speaking for myself, I’ll definitely slow down to work a QRS caller. Might not be until I get through most of the faster, persistent callers (having those out of the way might make copy easier anyway and keep you from feeling rushed) but I wont ignore a QRS caller. I’m thankful that when I stated out with CW there were operators that took the time to slow down to work me otherwise progressing would have been more difficult. I’ll return the favor.

Glad to hear your taking up CW! Hope to here you out there!

73, N8HN

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Steve, you can call me at any speed you are comfortable with. I’ll slow down for you gladly.


Thank you. I learned letters at 20 wpm speed but can not copy at 20 wpm send speed. I am only copying around 10wpm or slightly slower. I did not want to do something out of line by answering slow and annoying any activators.

I assume that if someone answers me they can understand at the speed I’m sending. However, I’m glad to QRS for people if they ask.

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Hi Guru,

If your ft817 is on the first menu line 10 (VOX, BK, KYR) then there is a shortcut to the cw speed. press and hold KYR (button C) and you are immediately in setup menu 21 (CW Speed), adjust speed then press the F key long enough to return to normal, as usual. This is handy when you know you might want to adjust the keying speed for a slower or faster incoming call. And after that QSO you use the same shortcut to return the speed to the level you want.

There’s another shortcut key, that I just noticed when checking the manual for the tip above. If you want to know your frequency relative to the other station, you can get a burst of your sidetone by pressing the Home button when in CW mode, without transmitting anything, or changing any menu options. This can also be done by turning off the BK setting, then using the paddle or key, which generates the sidetone without transmitting.

Every time I look in the manual I discover something new to me.

73 Andrew VK1DA VK2UH


It should be common courtesy to slow down to the speed of the sender. If that is to fast for the sender then the sender requests QRS. As for me I send at the speed of the sender,

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Hi Andrew,
I didn’t know it and I think this can be very helpful indeed.
When I activate, I usually stay in the menu PWR METER, as I usually set output power to minimum e.g. 500mW while checking and adjusting ATU for optimal SWR and then go up to 5 watts once the SWR reading strikes as safe enough to me.
I’ve been trying this out on my FT-817 now and I found out that both menus are close each other.
Being the menu VOX BK KYR just one step forward from the PWR METER menu, I hope I’ll be able to remember to move that step forward after ATU adjustment is done.
Thank you very much for this tip.
Best 73,


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Hi Steve

Welcome to Sota’s CW world. You would love it!
I believe most of activators will slow down except when its difficult to do so (some rigs…).

I will slow down for sure, like others have done with me in past.

Vy 73 de Pedro, CT1DBS

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I’ve done 2 summits with CW so far. I send at 12 wpm. I’ve had some chasers come back to me faster but with some spacing in between letters and that is a big help. And they repeat their call also. Go for it. You will be happy you did it. I know I was. The chasers were new at CW at one time too so they know how we feel and they are very patient.

Roland K7FOP

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I usually perform activations at relatively low speed - 17WPM. This help chasers to copy week signal from my QRP FT-817ND.

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Just because I feel like complicating things :slight_smile:

I keep my character speed at about 20 gpm, but I reduce/increase my group speed depending on the person who I am making contact with.

So it is possible to send 5 gpm with a 20 gpm character speed.


welcome to cw, i will always slow down to answer a new one. 73 es dx

Hi Oleh,
It’s true that QRS CW is easier to be copied when the signal is very weak, and I often call QRS (18 WPM) to DX activators with good results. Fast CW when signals are very weak is very hard to copy because any little QRM or minimum QRN crash can smash almost the full character sent (letter, number, punctuation…)
QRS code is also easier to be copied by the activator in the middle of a pile-up.
However, I personally don’t feel comfortable with activating QRS below 18 WPM, as this extends the time for the activator to work all the pile up and this is not often possible due to time and weather constrains.
With my usual activating speed of 22 WPM and my fair farnsworth practice whenever necessary, I never ever found a problem of a chaser not able to chase me due to being unable to copy my code or, at least, I’ve never been made aware of such situation.
I think activating at 10 or 15WPM in order to give a chance to one potential CW beginner one day, doesn’t worth it because it penalises on the other hand the whole group of chasers all the time everytimes. This also punishes the activator having to spend more than double time in the summit to complete the activation. That’s not fair from my point of view.
Best 73,


Guru, I don’t understand the logic of your argument.

You don’t HAVE to chase a 10-15wpm activator. If you don’t have the patience or the time, you could chase another activator or go have a coffee. Presumably, the chasers who do stay don’t see themselves as ‘penalised’.

As I new activator (and still QRS) I don’t feel “punished” for spending a longer time on the QSOs, rather I feel a sense of achievement doing something challenging but also grateful that chasers are prepared to work with me at my speed.

I am greatly heartened by the number of experienced chasers on this thread who say they are happy to slow down and encourage us newcomers to SOTA.

Andy (G8CPZ / M0ALC)

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Dont’ get me wrong, please!

Perhaps, I didn’t explain myself properly. I’m sorry for that.

I’ll try to clarify.

I am and I have always been pleased to QRS when I work CW from my shack, sometimes responding QRS and adapting to people calling CQ at any slow speed they may be using and some others calling CQ myself at about 18-20 WPM (rarely I call CQ slower than that now)

LEt me remind you that I spoke about activating myself at that slow speed, nothing about chasing. I wrote: I think activating at 10 or 15WPM in order to give a chance to one potential CW beginner one day, doesn’t worth it because it penalises on the other hand the whole group of chasers all the time everytimes.

Of course, that’s absolutely logical, normal and that’s the way we all felt when we started CW, but I’m sure you will also understand that the same type of challenge you currently find in completing a QSO during an activation, others (like myself) find the challenge not in just completing a QSO, because thousands of them have been completed by now, but in dealing with a big pile up (the bigger the better) and working 2, 3 or even more stations per minute over as many minutes as possible, recalling the names of the operators and calling them Andy, Colin, Helmut or Jorge during the activation. Those are the type of challenges I enjoy now during a SOTA activation and we, experienced CW operators, also have the right to enjoy and have challenges to achieve during a SOTA activation.

I learned CW back in 1985 and you will surely guess I made hundreds of QRS QSOs.
I have progressed pretty well since then, but I still like and enjoy the challenge of working SOTA and dealing with the pile-up.

As I explained in a previous post, I usually don’t QRS when activating because I find penalising to stop the normal pace of the operation to search the menu in my FT-817 where the CW speed can be modified. Now that Andrew explained me there’s a shortcut to access that menu, I may try to do it next time I activate SOTA, if I find it’s necessary.

I hope to QSO with you very soon, Andy and I’ll be absolutely pleased to QRS for you.

Best 73,


Hi Guru, thanks for the clarification and like you I hope we do work each other via SOTA soon.

My turn to clarify my previous comments …

From what I’ve read on this reflector, “the activator rules”. So, I took it for granted that experienced activators like yourself will work at whatever (high) speed they want and slow down only as needed for a QRS chaser. Since QRS chasers are normally the exception they wouldn’t increase the overall activation time by much.

I guess I was confused when you spoke of “the activator having to spend more than double time in the summit to complete the activation”. I assumed you were talking about an inexperienced activator like me who is QRS on every QSO (hence taking twice as long), and not yourself.

Anyway, it’s clear now thanks.

73, Andy (G8CPZ / M0ALC)

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