In reply to G0NMD:
Whilst QRQ CW can be off-putting, the number of activators that work in excess of 35WPM can be counted on one hand. Even then, you can guarantee that the vast majority of chasers will be calling at a much more reasonable speed.
I do not purport to be a good CW operator, but I have certainly improved over the past few years after virtually forgetting, & having to re-learn Morse after a few years away from the radio.
There will always be the “big guns” who work all the rare DX & rare summits, but there are things you can do to improve your chances, if like me, you have a fairly modest station.
Most importantly, & something that many stations find hard to do, is listen. A personal bug-bear of mine is chasers transmitting over the activator. This could be while he/she is exchanging details with another station, giving the summit reference or even during a summit to summit. Being able to hear the activator is a vital part of being able to work an activator, & it is quite clear to me at times that some stations are not hearing the activator at all.
After listening, timing your call correctly can help a lot. This does not mean “tail-ending” or calling over a QSO in progress, but simply listening for the activator to call QRZ or however they open the frequency for further calls. Of course, when everybody calls at the right time, if they have all netted precisely onto the activators frequency it makes it very difficult for the activator to pull more than perhaps a partial call out of the pile-up. A simple way to make things easier for the activator & also improve the chance that your call will be heard is to call a few tens of Hertz away from the main pile-up. If you listen to SOTA pile-ups you will hear many experienced chasers doing this, & it is effective. Of course, you should also only send your call once.
As far as speed goes, call at whatever speed you are comfortable with, most activators will either QRS for you, or insert bigger gaps between letters in order to work you. Very few would not respond to a request for a repeat or to QRS. Other posters have already covered waiting until later in the activation, but there is always finding the activator first, before they are spotted. This is by far my favourite method of chasing but it does require a good measure of luck, especially now with RBN generated spots. There is something quite satisfying about answering an activators first CQ call, having a nice relaxed QSO then listening as the pile-up ensues following the appearance of the RBN spot.
Whatever you decide, I do hope you keep up the CW, I have been through several speed barriers to get to were I am now, & it can be very frustrating when everyone seems to be going just that bit too fast for you, but stick with it & your speed will increase & you will hopefully find the faster SOTA pile-ups more of an enjoyable challenge rather than something to make you switch off.
If you ever hear me using CW on one of my extremely rare activations please feel free to call me at whatever speed you are comfortable with
Thanks & best 73,