SOTA CW for beginners

I have been learning CW since just a few months (Feb). I can recognise the numbers/letters by sound ~20wpm, at 18 a bit more comfortably. I can send ~18-20 as well, however since it is pretty an early stage, I make mistakes, I also usually need to listen to a call-sign 2-3 times, spacing usually helps. For now, I rather can do basic QSO as for activations: get the callsign, receive/send report, then TU 73… :wink:

I was wondering if it wouldn’t be quite risky to try an activation with such limited skill set - has anyone been in such a situation? Any advice?
My reason tells me - I should rather do a couple of chasings rather than an activation. My feelings tell me - go and try, everyone needs to learn at some stage and maybe it will not stick to me as a bad reputation of a LID… :slight_smile:
I am a bit more worried as this will be Ukrainian peak, last activated in 2014, so if band conditions allow, I could land in a very overwhelmed mode with a potential pile-up over there… So on one hand - learn more and go activate more comfortably, or go out of your comfort zone into the ocean and see what happens… :wink:

I would appreciate any insights, esp. of experienced hams potentially being in such a situation or experiencing others activating summits in their early learning stages. And please be frank - if it better to wait a few weeks, I am fine. Just would like to know the etiquette. Thank you in advance.


Hi Konrad!
Set 17 WPM then chasers will cal You 20 as you set 20 will 25 … It’s like on Polish roads with speed and road signs. I hold for you although it will be too close again.
V 73 de Mariusz

1 Like

Hello Konrad,

It’s good practice to send at a speed you can manage during reception. After a long period of time I warmed up my CW skills and occasionally I use CW as an activator also. Most of the chasers adapt to my speed (18 WPM). Sorry, but chasers replying with 25 WPM are not copied, as long as they do not reduce the speed. If you like you can send a QRS.
I found the 30m band appropriate for starting with CW, because here in OE the pileup is much less compared to 40m.

Looking forward to a CW-contact, just go on and try



Hi Konrad

Go for it! I would set your speed to 16 or 17 wpm to start with, as Mariusz suggests, and I agree that 30m is a good band to start with.

What still catches me out sometimes is when I don’t copy some words, followed by a …–… The most likely question is asking for your summit reference, so if in doubt, send that!

Remember that the chasers really want to complete a QSO, so they will be helpful. You can always ask pse qrs, or pse agn

73 es GL

1 Like

Hi Konrad,

As other operators said, go for an activation and try CW.
Just keep in mind, if you have a big pile up don’t panic and keep cool. Do a small qrx until the qrg comes quiet again… and start again to call. The chasers have to learn to be disciplined so that you, beginner CW operator can work comfortably and get insurance and experience.
After a few activations, you will probably just do CW activations.
Good luck
Laurent de F8CZI


Your CW, by your description sounds better than mine and I have recently made my first and subsequent CW activations.

I would say go for it… I put in my ALERT a note on my skill level… “can read at 15-18wpm but overall speed needs to be 10-12wpm” and I found the chasers organized themselves and slowed down for me. Some don’t slow-down even after a QRS request so they had to be ignored.

I also have activated without the QRS notes and that was crazy so be ready to send QRS. It does get somewhat easier…

Good Luck

Richard // N2GBR


Hi Korad,
The following should give you a fair idea of a typical sota qso. Hope it formats ok it is usually a word document. Just repeat it with several stations and it will become second nature. do not let it get too complicated at first, that will come with practice.
All the best and hope to catch you from a hill soon.

Typical CW SOTA exchange


F*&*%$*********** [Lots of answers We hope!]

F? BK [F who? The only bit we heard. BK= Break to him]

F9XYZ [Hope he’s the only F otherwise it’s F9? etc till we isolate one]

F9XYZ 579 579 BK [Report, break to him]

TU ROB 429 429 BK [Thank you Rob your report 429 Break to you. The name is not necessary, he probably got it from the reflector, but sometimes nice to use unless you’re called Rumpelstiltskin.]

RR 73 SK E E [Roger roger 73 end of contact]

EE [Bye Bye]

QRZ G4RQJ/P SOTA G/LD043 K [ On to the next one We hope!]

There are a few other lines that might slip in.

SOTA? Or SUMMIT? [He wants a repeat of your summit reference].

CU [see you] CUL [see you later] CUAGN [see you again] [Think texting. CW was here first]

TNX [Thanks]

SRI [Sorry]

SRI QRM PSE AGN [ Sorry qrm please repeat the last bit (A good excuse if he’s too fast for you!)]


Good suggestions Rob.

Not to get forgotten is ‘ref?’ - a very common way of asking for the summit reference.

73, Colin


Hi Konrad,

I strongly agree with all the previous responders: Go for it and do an activation!

It might be easier during the week than on a week end. Start with 30m (or 20m, when it’s open) and use 40m as last band. There the pile-ups are usually the worst.

Hope to hear you on the bands in CW sometime soon!

73 Heinz


Try CW. Use QRS. If the chasers want you they will slow down to your speed.
Advantages of CW: a low power weak signal will be copied easier than voice,
partly because competing CW signals are likely also to be from lower power stations.
Also, robots will hear your CQ and post spots for you. This is a big advantage.

  • Al, N1AW

Hi Konrad,

Good luck in learning CW, you will see loads of advise on different methods on how to learn CW on these threads below:

You will probably be bored after reading all these learning CW threads, I know I was.

Jimmy M0HGY


If it bores you Jimmy, why do you read the messages about learning Morse? :wink:

Konrad, as you have learnt Morse you should just go and use it.

Do not worry people will think you a fool if you ask for repeats or ask people to QRS.
Do not worry about not being fast enough or understanding everything sent.
Do not worry… I don’t! I make a fool of myself every time I use Morse. I don’t care.

SOTA chasers want the points. Really they do want the points.

The clever chasers will listen to you and adapt so you understand them and they get the points. They will slow down, they will send just enough for a QSO to be valid. They are clever because the listen and adapt.

Just ignore the fools who do not listen and do not adapt to your speed. I do.


If you are worried about being overwhelmed by a pile-up, start out at very low power. Maybe only a few will hear you and respond. Once they are out of the way, dial up the power by increments and pull in the next batches.


Hello Konrad,

As everyone else says - just go for it, chasers will adapt to your speed. Only way to learn cw is to make cw qsos.

One more piece of advice:

During your transmissions, send twice the call of the station you are answering too. For example, instead of

F9XYZ 579 579 BK

you should send

F9XYZ F9XYZ 579 579 BK

You are controlling the pileup this way, helping chasers to be 100% sure who are you speaking to, especially if your signal is weak or lost in noise and qrm.

73 Fric YU1WC


OK, so first thanks all for your replies. Secondly, I am reading it as I will be more or less forgiven by the chasers as it comes to my quality of reading and sending.

OK, I will take a big breath and think about going for it. Still a lot of concern - I do not copy all call-signs immediately, and I would be much more comfortable doing it a few weeks later, but I am getting so tempted being in Europe for 3 weeks and we are planning to do an activation of UT mountains anyway, so cw is so tempting… If chasers are really forgiving a toddler’s set of mistakes, I can give it a try… :slight_smile:


Recently an activator posted “PSE QRS 10 WPM.” I do not think that is inappropriate if you are not comfortable with higher speeds. By the way, I was willing to slow down and work that activator gladly.

1 Like

Thanks, I am comfortable with ~20wpm but my processing is not instant, so I need a few times of repetition most of the times. I believe it is a matter of practice and time, so normally I would not enter the mode before practicing more, but since it is a rare possibility to do UT this forthcoming weekend, I am so tempted. I was just worried I may be pain in the a*#@ … on the band… :wink:

You can practice very easily, even with callsigns of real SOTA chasers, using the free VE3NEA’s Morse Runner. It is the best simulation you can get of a real pile-up, with noise, qrn, qsb and LIDs.

Beware, it can be quite addictive…

Links to it (and many other CW goodies) on ON6ZQ | .


You could get out and activate on CW before going to the big mountains… seriously… you’ll be fine… take your time… ignore the speed demons that don’t slow-down and don’t be afraid to ask AGN AGN… QRS or anything else…

KX0R once sent me his call sign like 20x as there was massive QRM and I wasn’t catching his call sign… He stuck with it, and eventually the light went on in my head!..

Richard // N2GBR


Morse runner :ok_hand:

1 Like