Standardized head copying CW S2S QSO for novice activators

At the moment I don’t want to give a CW spot as an activator. A pileup would overwhelm me. I only dare to do it on 80m.

In contrast, I like to react to CW S2S spots.

Inspired by a suggestion from Phil, G4OBK, I’d suggest a standard qso for head copying. I’ll keep it as short as possible and give no /P in the first call and no /- in the ref. Because I don’t want hold the activator and avoid keying mistakes.

Here’s an example:

I see the spot with the reference from Phil and hear his call:

Chris: DL1CR
Phil: DL1CR
Chris: DL1CR/P 559 559 REF DM NS 122 DM NS 122 K
Phil: TU 559 559 73
Chris: TU e e

Of course everyone can deviate from it, but every cw qso in which I was able to read everything motivates me a lot!

73 Chris


Hi Chris, glad you are doing CW now. I think one would have more luck herding cats than getting chasers to use a standardized exchange, many of whom do not read this reflector.

In any case, your suggested template is close to typical SOTA QSOs that I have. You have an extra (redundant) step: Phil could give you his report when he first acknowledges your callsign.

Also, the forward slash (“/”) in callsigns is useful for knowing who is portable (As an activator I usually give them priority in a pileup) and in SOTA references it helps one distinguish the country code from the region code (which is useful for QSB, weak signal or noisy conditions).

So, I would modify it to:

Chris: DL1CR
Phil: DL1CR GM 559 559 BK
Chris: TU 559 559 {REF DM/NS122 DM/NS122} BK
Phil: {CFM} 73 TU
Chris: TU E E

{ … } optional

The GM/GA/GE humanizes the exchange and I follow it by his/her name if I know it [You will be head copying your own name before long!].

I think BK is better than K [Other chasers may misinterpret ‘K’ as meaning they can go ahead.

I like CFM or R to confirm I understood what was sent.

Bear in mind, you probably won’t be head copying the callsign or SOTA ref which you will likely want to write down for your log.

Hope to work you on CW soon.

73 Andy


Hi Andy, thanks for your welcome suggestions. BK instead of K is certainly better, I use and hear it too. A GM or GD is also friendlier and shouldn’t be a problem.

[Hope to work you on CW soon]
With pleasure 73 Chris

It is also very common saying UR before the 559 or whatever signal report.
UR stands for [yoU aRe] or [yoUr Report].
I like using it because it’s short and it tells your QSO partner that the signal report (i.e. the key part of a standard QSO to be valid) will follow.
Good luck.
I’ll keep looking forward to making a CW QSO with you soon.



I’m just starting in CW, which I learned specifically for SOTA activations. I remember my first one in November 2020 and not really having thought through the fact that a pile-up in CW is just a long string of peeps but eventually someone would break through or move their frequency a tab to be distinguished from the rest.

Two things I’ve learned in the six months I’ve done CW activations:

  1. I focused on learning the sounds of each part of the exchange you mentioned. That way it can happen in whatever order the op sends and you’ll be fairly comfortable following along. The biggest hurdle there is copying a S2S-required summit reference exchange, which can be daunting.

  2. I’m right-handed. After 2 months of sending right-handed, I re-trained myself to send with my left hand so I could write down notes and not have to put down my pen every time I needed to start sending. Not having to manage a pen with my sending hand alleviated a lot of stress that I’d not realizing I was experiencing while operating!

Hope to catch you on the air sometime!

Michael N4DCW

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I agree. But I don’t worry too much if I don’t manage to copy it correctly. The SOTA ref is not required to make the QSO valid and you can check it on the SOTAwatch spots when you get home.

Michael, I’m left-handed and learnt to straight-key with my left. Much later, when I learnt iambic keying I used my right hand, so now I too use separate hands for logging and keying [But don’t get me and Guru @EA2IF going again about our preferred methods on this].


I’d also always throw in MNI TKS (or TU) S2S, GL and HPE CUL. :slight_smile:

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