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What a shambles CW SOTA is becoming

I think the time has come when we need to take a hard look at the popularity and the standard of operating SOTA on CW from the chasers side.

Listening to Bob F5HTR/P (who was a good signal into the UK today on 7032 KHz) between 1245z and 1320z revealed a lack of manners, understanding, patience and operting skill by many of the chasers calling Bob.

Walt G3NYY/P was attempting to make an S2S QSO with Bob to no avail. I spotted Bob at 1248z and gave up calling him due to the melee and sheer ignorance of the callers, long calls, sending over the top of Bob and sending over the chaser working Bob. I returned to the frequency at 1315z to find Walt G3NYY/P still trying to make his S2S QSO. I tried to assist, as did Roy G4SSH, to no avail. If chasers were using SOTAWatch they would have seen my comment that Walt was trying to make an S2S QSO which was placed as a comment on SOTAWatch twice, and has been left there to remind people of their selfish attitude.

In case some of you people who were operating in the fashion that you were do not know, the protocol which has come about by custom and practice in SOTA CW is that chasers should always give way to allow an S2S QSO to take place if they hear another /P station calling, before calling the activator themselves. Faced with the standard of operating that I heard today had I have been activating I would have resorted to working split frequency if that was possible. As we are using 7032 KHz on busy days like today, working split is not really practicable due to other activators who are likely to be operating on 7033 or 7034 KHz. There is insufficient space for an activator to work split, due to the likelihood of other SOTA /P stations working just above him him and then you are soon up to 7035 KHz. Unfortunately many DATA operators haven’t yet woken up to the fact that the CW section is now listed in the bandplan as running up to 7040 KHz with narrow band modes (i.e. datacomms) listed as having the use of 7040-7050 KHz, which is still being used for SSB.

Would anyone like to have a debate on the reflector about how the operating standards of many of the people chasing SOTA points in CW could be improved to the benefit of us all?

By the way, although I was the one who spotted Bob F5HTR/P when he came on at about 1245z I didn’t actually work him. On top of that I don’t think Walt G3NYY/P worked Bob properly either, thanks to people calling over his “QSO” so I hope those who did work Bob in the way that I have described, enjoyed their bit of excitment in working a 10 pointer at mine and Walt’s expense.

Shame on you and your standards of operating.

I have switched off now and am QRT from SOTA for the rest of the day in disgust. I thought I would never say this but gardening is more satisfying for me at present than chasing SOTA.

73 Phil G4OBK

In reply to G4OBK:


I was listening to the mayhem today. Although the problem does not lie with the activators, the solution perhaps does. The reality is that the “problem” is only occasional and is only on or around 7032. With the ready availability of SOTAwatch, activators can easily alert and self-spot for other frequencies if they wish to do so. Now that 40CW is so popular for SOTA and given that the band has expanded, perhaps we should be looking to spread out a bit more? Maybe we can start to claim back a bit of the new CW band?



In reply to G4OBK:

It isn’t just CW, either, Phil. During the time I was listening to Petr, OK1FFU/P, there were people calling on top of the people who were working him, and even on top of him during his overs. This included some often-heard UK callsigns. The splatter from a station just over 1 kHz above didn’t help much, but you would think that people would know when the station that they are so desperate to work is talking and therefore is unlikely to hear them.

By hindsight I suppose that it was inevitable that the law of the jungle would invade SOTA once it became popular. SOTA is unique in the brevity of the activations: a DXCC entity or an island might be put on the air for weeks, a lighthouse or castle for days, but the time window for working a summit is measured in minutes and the fanatical chasers are desperate to grab their points before the Activator has to descend or runs out of battery power. It is human nature, I’m afraid.

The interesting thing is that when an activation on HF begins it is quite orderly and even gentlemanly, but within a few minutes of a Spot being posted the pack of wolves suddenly descends and trashes the frequency, so I am starting to wonder if we should either discontinue the Spots facility, or restrict it to V/UHF. This will mean that listening skills will come to the fore, or at least that the alligators will not all arrive at the same time!


Brian G8ADD

In reply to G4OBK:

Hi Phil!

Many thanks to yourself and Roy for trying to help today. No, I did not succeed in working F5HTR/P S2S. After he called me and I tried to respond to him, the next thing I heard was an Italian station working him, so my QSO was not complete.

I agree with you about the poor operating by some stations today. In fact I gave up on it at 13:20 today and packed up and went home.

A great pity.

Walt (G3NYY)

In reply to G8ADD:

In reply to All

Sorry but my english is too bad so i reply in french :

Vous avez raison dans votre observation mais tous les chasseurs font , a un moment ou a un autre, du QRM plus ou plus volontaire : Il n’est pas possible qu’un G, F, D … ou autre n’entende pas qu’un autre G, F, D … appelle en meme temps et pourtant cela se fait chaque fois ou presque et vous ne pourrez pas l’empecher : C’est l’aspect " mauvais " du chasseur qui se trouve en compétition avec d’autres chasseurs au même moment.

  • La solution ne semble pas etre dans la suppression ( reduction ) du Spot car certains activareurs le demandent ou le pratiquent eux-memes…
    Je pense que l’Activateur qui a fait l’effort physique pour atteindre son objectif serait le premier pénalisé.
  • J’ai lu que Luk/DD1LD pensait a faire du split : Ce serait une solution mais attention à ne pas causer de problémes à d’autres Activateurs SOTA ( ou autres )et il faut bien maitriser son sujet car les Chasseurs resteront des Chasseurs…
  • Travailler sur liste “courte” comme certains Activateurs le font déjà…pas facile quand on est seul…
  • Travailler par Indicatif / Pays …
    -Attendre, comme ROY / G4SSH, la fin de l’activité …de la tempete hertzienne
    -Que l’Activateur cesse ses émissions ( Cela est déja arrivé mais les “bons” payent pour les “mauvais” - l’Activateur étant du cote des"bons" )

Je crois que c’est à l’Activateur de prendre la décision qui comme toute décision ne fera pas l’unanimité sauf que lui est sur le terrain…

Best 73 to You
Daniel / F5SQA

In reply to G4OBK:

Hi friends

I think that now we should try to spread out a little bit, starting on 7030 or less.
With such pile ups and wolves, may be we could try to work split freq ? but I’m not sure that aligators know how to manage a split QSO…

I thought I would never say this but gardening is more
satisfying for me at present than chasing SOTA.
Yes Phil, I also think that, but for other reasons…

73 Alain F6ENO

In reply to G3CWI:

Although the problem does not lie with the activators, the solution perhaps does.

The problem has existed for quite a time and it has been mentioned on the reflector from time to time, but it does appear to have worsened in recent months. I have experienced it both when activating and when chasing. Fortunately for me my main interest is VHF, so I have no issue with switching off when it occurs.

When my activations include HF, I now use 30m rather than 40m as the problem is much less prevalent on that band. Indeed, I have used a monoband dipole for my most recent excursions onto HF and as such have had no facility to move onto 40m. 30m has produced some excellent QSOs and maybe using the band should be considered as one way of both taking the pressure off 40m and getting oneself a quieter life.

73, Gerald

In reply to G4OBK:
On several occasions I have heard a DXpedition make an exchange such as:
W6?..W6?..no cpy NIL…cqcq…
I knew darn well the station was heard, and I know why he got a NIL report. Such response from the activator surely consumes time and power, but is quite effective. The difference with SOTA, from what I can see, is the Honour System. If you are not in a DXpedition log, you will not get your entity confirmed.
By the way, consider yourselves lucky you have such a problem.

In reply to F5SQA:
Merci Daniel

Thank you for your comments and I understand all your points. I used Babel Fish to translate and tidy up what I could! For the benefits of the other British with little French here is the translation:


You are right in your observation that all the hunters make, have one moment or have another, of the QRM becoming worse. If no QSO is not possible; one G, F, D… or other does not hear the QSO of another G, F, D… call at the same time and yet that is made each time or almost and you will not be able to prevent. C’ is l’ aspect " bad " hunter which is in competition with the other hunters at the same time. The solution does not seem to be in the suppression (reduction) of the Spots because certain activators ask for it or themselves practise it… I think that the Activator which made the physical effort to achieve its goal would be the penalized first. - I read that Luk/DD1LD thought to make use of Split frequency. It could be a solution but needs caution so as not to cause problems with the other Activators in SOTA (or others) and it should be well controlled because the Hunters will remain Hunters…

You could work a list " courte" as certain Activators do already… not easy when one is alone… You could work by Code/Country… You could wait until the pile up reduces, like ROY/G4SSH, until the end of the activity….hertzian storm That is OK but sometime the Activator ceases his emissions and so if you wait you may not make a QSO. That said the good pay the price for the " bad" - the Activator being the good of course. I believe that it is with the Activator to make the decision which as any decision will not make the unanimity except that is to him on the ground…


I think I get your points Damiel, not a perfect conversion but I understand your comments - let us see if any more comments arrive…merci for your support.

73 and good hunting!


In reply to G4OBK:
That is sad to read indeed Phil. Alas, most of the big DXpeditions these days attract the same type of poor operating from some of the chasers.

It is for this reason that when I activate SOTA these days I do so mostly on 30m and 20m where the pile ups are lighter and more disciplined.

On a brighter note, I look forward to meeting lots of SOTA folk at Llandudno tomorrow.

Roger MW0IDX

In reply to G4OBK:

The basic problem is that SOTA is becoming a victim of its own success, and this is well illustrated by the growing number of chasers on the air. Frankly, we are rapidly reaching saturation level on 40m and this is particularly noticeable on CW where it is becoming common to have a pile-up of between 50 to 100 chasers all calling at the same time, attracted by the spots, and more recently the DX cluster.

These huge pile-ups used to be restricted to weekends, but now occur throughout the week.

A slick CW activator will work through the chasers in about 30 minutes but a slower op,(who perhaps prefers to repeat the SOTA reference every over) will take more than an hour to clear the backlog.

Multiply this by 3 activators all working between 7031 and 7034 KHz and you frequently have chaos. This leads to frustration and deteriorating standards as the two basic factors for a successful QSO - of listening to the activator and timing your call correctly - are ignored, to be replaced by constant calling throughout the over of the activator. Unfortunately there are two or three regular SOTA chasers who are becoming notorious for this behaviour. We rapidly reach the situation where everybody is trying to be the last to call, then the tail enders tail the tail enders, and so on, until nobody can hear the activator.

The unwillingness to listen is amply reflected when the activator says “PSE QRX” and the chasers continue to call. This is sometimes ignorance, but often deliberate when the activator calls for HB9? and three different country prefix’s answer.

There are no bonus points for being first but everybody wants to get in, work the activator and move on. More experienced chasers will listen to the feeding frenzy, assess their chances of success, and leave the pile-up for 15 minutes or so before calling when the callers have thinned out. My location on the edge of Europe, with a vertical antenna means that most distant activators using QRP power, such as HA, OK and S5 are just audible to me so there is little point trying to compete with 599 signals on ground wave, so I wait until the end. Most activators are very conscientious and will continue to listen down to the background noise. I agree with Daniel F5SQA, that you do run the risk of the activator going QRT, but this is a chance you take.

One solution is for the activators to start on alternate bands such as 80 or 30 m where they can slim down the callers in an orderly and controlled manner. Some already do just this by starting on 14 MHz, then 10 and finally 7 MHz, by which time there are only a few callers in the pile up. Another solution is to forget about 7032 KHz and alert a different frequency 10 or 20 KHz down, such as 7022 or 7012 KHz – it matters not once the chasers have found them. Once on this distant spot they are then free to work split, or by numbers in the callsign - the choice is theirs. However this relies on a display of common sense and chasers who are prepared to listen.


In reply to G4OBK:
Hello Phil and SOTA friends
I agree at your comment but that’s life. I think that the activator is or must be the boss.
When I hear a call I answer to this call. If there is qrm, I don’t care and I call again the call I’ve heard. Sometimes It takes a long time but pile up decrease and I can work in good condition. When I’m on summit, I’m not in a hurry. I keep cool.
I use to work in qrp mode and I know that I must be patient.
Every day we meet on the road or shopping center those people who want be the first and fast one.
Well, I hope to meet most of you, tomorrow and I’m sure that 10 meters will be not crowdy :slight_smile:
Best 73.
Andre - f5ukl

In reply to F5UKL:

Bonjour André :wink:

I agree with Stuart. My interest in SOTA is being activator. You hear many calling? You ask by parts of call. Like

C- W2…
A- W2 W2?
A- W2RFR 599

A- 2RFR 599
C- W2RFR 599 TU

The activator got to keep control of his pile.

And like Stuart, I am only dreaming of having to deal with pilups here.
Now, as for the S2S priority, I agree with this. People got to get more disciplined.

The spots section is necessary, especially for us in NA. OM’s with big antennas can spot more easily our sigs for those who have small base stations.

Dear friend,

Today, I climbed two summits of 2500 m ! that was very nice day and I think it will not be possible to climb 10 points summits next week cause the weather !

3 days ago, I finished my installation radio shack at home ! I was exiting to become a chaser !
I understood that sometimes, activator’s signals are very difficult to read !
I understood that it was difficult also to listen a normal activator signal because Chaser call at all moment ! they do not listen at all ! and may be they do not understand CW !
So at home I have 5 w only because I am in a flat, and I reach the activator in 2 or 3 time calling ! If it does not work I wait for 20 minutes and you do it for sur ! If it does not work it is not necessary to call and call to bored everybody ! This is not japenese station or anything else !

So from this short experience of chaser I decide today to send my call sign at each qso in order to be comprehensible to all and also to the chaser who received me with a very short signal.
Today, It was incredible to listen the trafic on the air ! strange behavior from chaser ! They transmit their call 5 times ! they transmit during qso ! they do not listen at all !
At a moment I leave them calling and calling and then I ask HB9 ? (I did not listen HB9 at all) and a HB9AAQ respond to me ! so for next sota :

  1. I don’t know if you see it, but I will not annouce my expedition in sotawatch anymore ! it is not necessary to do 4 qso in 40 m band. And I ask chaser not to spot me anymore because all chaser who are not able to control themselves arrive on the frequency as an “hair in the soup” ! this is french way to say !
  2. I will make normal qso with name qth and all infos !
  3. If I decide to create a pile up, I will try to listen UP 1 or UP2

As André, my treck was “tranquille” I walk 3 hours to go up and 2,5 to go down ! 1200 m slope ! and seen a lot of “bouquetins” ! nice day AND soon the film !

Best regards to all

We should not give up. The problem with bad behavior in the pile-up is widely present in our hobby, not only in SOTA. Both sides, the activators and the chasers have responsibility.

The chaser has to listen more and to catch the rhythm of the activator. Has to avoid long calling. The callsign has to be send maximum two times followed by listerning. To not call when the chances to be heard are minimal or non existing. Send the callsign with correct CW. Avoid long extra info’s (the time and battery of activator are limited). Don’t be a QRG policemen.

The activator has to use clear operating procedure and to frequently repeat his callsign (and time to time the SOTA reference). Must to know the capability of his portable setup and to adjust the operating style with his signal level in most populated chasers areas. If find necessary, may to reduce the pile-up calling by geographical areas (UK, Scandinavia, DX, e.t.c.). To use more than one band during the activation. Activator with his operating style must to rise the confidence of chasers that on the end of activation all of them will be in the LOG. If this is not a case, than the chaos is on scene.

There is much more on this issue. This discussion is first step to solve this problem.

In reply to Z35M:

This excellent advice, Vladimir. All that is necessary is for people to follow your advice and there will be no problems!

Walt (G3NYY)

In reply to Z35M:

If I had 3 wishes free as CW activator:

  1. No spotting please for 7,032 CW. Would force chasers to listens to the signal and not just call on the supposed QRG

  2. Chasers please send your call sign ONLY ONCE. Either your signal is strong and this is enough for me to copy or you are burried in QRM and sending twice wouldn’t help either.

  3. No need for split mode, but please send “slightly” off frequency and not exactly on beat frequency. I find 2 stations exactly on beat frequency at the same time completely unreadable.

My experience is that if the activator can keep up the QSO rate this considerably calms chasers and makes S2S or QRP/QRP QSOs possible. There are excellent programs around to brush up rusty CW - and morserunner for pile-up listening.



In reply to DF9TS:

My experience is that if the activator can keep up the QSO rate this
considerably calms chasers and makes S2S or QRP/QRP QSOs possible.

Yes Gerd you are true,
but SOTA QSOs will become a ‘599’ exchange, without anymore friendship; I can understand that when I’m in a big expedition, or in bad wx, but on a common summit…!
Rather sad, but necessary now.

73 Alain F6ENO

In reply to F6ENO:


right as always. I tend to do one run of 599 QSOs until no more chasers are there or battery empty (limited battery capacity) and if time is left just listen to DX on higher bands or do some nice/personal QSOs/chatting on other frequencies.

But always open for a change: We could all agree on a date when we do no QSO and accept no chaser in the log under 5 minutes (i.e. give RST after 5 min.)? And favour chasers with good operating practice? Nice idea!



For the few activations I have done I always tried at least to mention a first name and a kind word. Makes it all a bit more personal, friendly and enjoyable.

And if 599 chasers don’t have the time or patience then they should go somewhere else. I also tend to ignore those who call over others while having a QSO. Those a not worth talking to.
A bit harsh but there’s still a rule of conduct which I admired when I started SOTA and that has the tendency to dissapear. What a shame.

73, Peter