SOTA CW for beginners

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.

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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:

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Another +1 for morse runner.

I started SOTA with CW and still haven’t made many SSB Q’s. Most north american chasers are CW people it seems. Even with the KX3 cranked up to 10W I’ve had poor luck.

The #1 tip I can add is add to your alert “PSE QRS”, it always got people to slow down for me when I first started.

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Konrad -

I have operated 95% CW for the last 56 years and I am both a chaser and activator. The “old school” rule is that one should answer a CQ at the same speed at which it is sent. So if you send your CQ slowly, it would be good form for the chasers to also send slowly.

As suggested by another, try to at least copy a part of a call and then send that part with a question mark for a repeat. Continue the process until you have the complete call.

Remember, as the activator you set the pace and you should expect the chasers to follow your lead. As another said, the chasers want the points and will operate accordingly. So if you ignore the speedy stations, the chasers will come to understand what is needed.

Best of luck with the activations. Don, AC7P


Another vote for “Go for it!”

QRS PSE is your friend, for sure. We were all at that stage of learning at one time. Most of us remember it well, so it gives us a big grin knowing somebody else is now on the road to CW fluency.

To be quite truthful, I find higher speed CW in marginal/QRP conditions to be sub-optimal. Static crashes and QRM cover up too much. Far better to be understood at 15-18 WPM in a single try than three tries at 30 wpm, which is why I prefer a straight key. I also find I send better with a straight key if my hands are cold or I’m really tired. Besides, people walking by seem more impressed with straight key sending for some unknown reason!

There are ops out there who have their egos tied up in their CW speed, but I don’t see that in SOTA. So ask for repeats where you need them and have a lot of fun. Your skills will improve quickly with actual operation.
Bruce WB8OGK


Thank you all. I still remember my first SSB activation, when I was making simple mistakes including answering QRZ instead of QSL when asking if my recipient understood me… :smiley:
Still finding it sentimental to remember discharging my first pile-ups.

If SOTA community is so forgiving and understanding, I might possibly go for it. “No pain no gain” :blush:
I still have a few days to abandon this crazy idea, just in case.

Do it. Send slower than you can really receive, ignore the operators who don’t understand and won’t adopt your speed. You need a few WPM “up your sleeve” to cater for nerves and QRM, it really makes a big difference.

You’ll be so glad you took the plunge.

73 Andrew VK1DA VK2UH

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