Why don't VKs/ZLs use CW more?

Quite a few Japanese SOTA activations on 20, 17, and 15 CW get chasers from VK and ZL booming in around 0000Z. But It seems like nearlt all of the down-under activators are SSB exclusively. Please use CW and give us CW-only guys a chance for some nice DX SOTA points. Tnx and 72, Steve in Okinawa

This pops up every year or so. There’s not so many SOTA activators in VK. Quite a few of those obtained their license after the CW requirement was dropped. There are moves to increase the number of CW activations in VK (There’s been one today already, looking at SOTAWatch). I’ve been doing CW on higher bands during some activations.

In any case, the activator is king, they choose the bands and the modes they want to use, and moving to higher bands and using CW prolongs the time spent on top of the mountain, and at this time of year, you get sunburnt in about 30 seconds here in VK, dehydrated in 30 seconds more and then bitten by a snake for good measure on descent.

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Fair enough about the snakes etc. I did try to hear the 40M CW activator but it’s rarely possible in the morning, while the higher bands are usually excellent for VK-JA.

Don’t need to activate or even get out of bed to be bitten :fearful:

I try to throw in a bit of CW on the higher bands like Andrew, but sometimes time is against me. Given most activators are in the SE corner of the country, the best bang for your buck has historically been the lower bands, cw or not, which also usually excludes JA.

I was contemplating a new years resolution to only activate above 10MHz but it may be a bit anti-social :laughing:


Hi Steve,

SSB is easier and we are lazy. CW requires a bit of an effort and maybe only 10% (wild guess) of SOTA activators here in VK run CW.

I do look for you guys when you are activating and have worked a few on 20 m and 15 m. Signals are always weak. If I were to receive a call from JA when next activating I’d be very happy. Our activation’s tend to be in the morning and early afternoon so propagation North could be OK on the higher bands. I heard Rick VK4RF working JA activators this morning but nil heard here. Sometimes there is no skip.

Hope to see you in my log soon.


Thanks Ron and Andrew. I raised the subject because I am about 600-900 kms south of most of the JA activations. Nearly all their activations are from 2300 to 0200Z, and many days I can barely hear them here, but the VKs and ZLs who answer them are very strong. I always try my QRP first and then switch on the big gun (75 watts) is they don’t hear me. Another quirk is that sometimes I hear VK3 very well but have to really strain for VK4. All part of the fun… Steve

Hi Steve,
As other have mention, CW is just not as popular in VK as in other parts of the world.
And yes this means there are less CW activation’s than SSB, with only a handful activating in CW. Equally to activate on CW you need to be confidant that you will get your 4 contacts.

Whilst things have improved since my first activation in 2012 when I needed 2 hours on a summit to get 4 on CW, it still takes some time and it is a very rare day that I get a pile up.

I also use the higher bands, and with JA joining SOTA I now normally use 15m as well.

I can only suggest you keep chasing, keep flagging it on forums like this and things will get better.

For me I am unlikely to activate until the weather cools off, maybe in March, but I will continue to use CW as my primary activation mode. I hope I can work you then.

73, Warren vk3byd

Steve, I have noted that JA activations tend to be quite long with considerable time spent on different bands. This can maximise the opportunities to work chasers from various locations.
In VK, the activations tend to be much shorter and, with a principal aim to qualify the summit, one tends to concentrate where the best chances of achieving this can be had.
This tends to be 40 metres due to the geographic concentration of SOTA activity.
If activating in conjunction with non radio types (xyl) have to be very mindful of the activation time.
I have a number of JA stations in my chaser and activator logs plus S2S. Generally signals are not high thus making CW the preferred mode and 15metres the most successful band.
On a most recent 3 summit trek, I did try 15 and 20 metres on the first summit but only managed to snare ZL1BYZ on 20m CW.
The other activations were short due to time, WX and spotting difficulties.


I think it’s fair to say that the CW activations in Europe far outnumber the SSB ones - In Australia, at the moment it’s the other way around.

CW requires effort, however it’s also easier to make a long distance contact (or one under poor conditions) than when using SSB.

So in both these cases one fact balances out the other. SOTA is meant to be inclusive - not only of people but also of modes, so CW, SSB, FM and digital modes all form part of SOTA in greater or lesser extents in different parts of the world.

Steve - as Ron says, there are actions a-foot - including a SOTA CW practice net run by Ron, to increase the number of Australian operators capable of operating SOTA in the CW mode.


Good to know there is interest in more CW. And there’s no reason why both modes can’t be used in one activation, is there? Since the QSOs only need to be minimal exchanges and not a lengthy ragchew, the only reason for being up on a peak for a long time is if the number of chasers is low. So it’s a win-win: the more CW chasers there are the sooner you can switch back to SSB or head home to the barby. 73, Steve

Those who run both CW and SSB from a summit try to work all chasers, so the time involved does not decrease.

Of course the other advantage of CW is that there are several CW only, lightweight rigs, whereas I think all SSB rigs are multi-mode and hence heavier to carry as they have to have all of the needed electronics.

As always, it’s what the activator wants to run and is comfortable with. I have difficulty learning morse code and hence operate SSB and enjoy making SSB QRP contacts over distances that many people say are only possible on CW.

Each to their own - and respect to all.

73 Ed.

Hi Steve, how about you use SSB and give the SSB-only activators some chaser QSO’s! :slight_smile:

CW is far from dead and unused in VK, but the majority of activators either cannot or do not want to use CW. Personally whilst I have made a couple of crossmode CW/SSB contacts for Summit to Summit contacts, I am so rusty with CW that I need a cheat sheet in front of me. I would almost need to completely relearn CW if I did wish to use it on a more frequent basis - and I have other things I wish to use my time on!

Seriously though, plug in the microphone and give the SSB activators a call - I usually get a number of JA in the log most activations.


My SOTA rig is CW only (Weber Tribander). What band(s) did you work JA on your activations Matt?

Sorry when you said you had higher power if needed I made the assumption you were talking about a “regular” all mode radio.

Looking at my activation logs, I have made 118 JA contacts from SOTA summits as follows:
10m: 74
12m: 38
20m: 6

Note that these figures are distorted due to the 10m and 12m challenges that significantly increased my use of those bands during the challenge periods. Looking at the contacts after those challenges, 20m and 10m were the bands with most JA chasers working me. I have not used 15m very much as my usual antenna (40m OCF) is borderline there and even with a tuner, not particularly efficient.


Me sorry too - I do have a regular old transceiver I use from home. But band conditions now mean I would only hear you boys in the morning, and 20 is the best band. For example, I can’t hear VK6MSC now (0500Z) on 20 SSB, and there is no chance of hearing the current 40 SSB activator VK2BJP. 10 is dead here unless there’s a contest on and the JA activators usually don’t even try it on CW. I don’t work 12 so can’t speak for the reception. Up until recently, 15 was a great band for both local and VK, but not since December.

My activations are almost cw only as find in the poor band conditions current cw has some benefits with weak fading signals.
From my location in the Central Tablelands on ocassions have a bit of trouble hearing some of the ssb activators.
Generally am a weekend activator and so far (touch wood) have not had to much difficulty in getting four or more contacts to qualify the summit.
Where possible take a 45 w pa with extra batteries so as to give a bit more bite to my signal.
Normally use a KX3, as well have a small lightweight Weber Tribander for those summits that require a full pack overnight trek or are just hard to get to.
DX activators in JA or the U.S are usually very weak and although I have listened out many times rarely made contact with them.
Regard myself as being lucky if I can get a JA, that’s about all.
Timezone difference with poor propagation seems to be a problem with U.S activators.
When propagation was better before the poor solar cycle quite often could get EU chasers when on a summit on 30/20M but now that sort of event is rare.

I have wondered the same thing here in the USA. I would love to work some VK’s here in the states and CW would make those contacts much more likely to occur.

I had a near miss CW VK5 s2s contact a couple of years ago (VK5CZ I think), and I have not heard Australia since on SOTA. Due to the distance and the poor solar conditions working SSB over this path is going to be very, very hard to do.

Anyhow, I see all of the SSB spots and I never hear anything here in Arizona, which is a shame. I would love to have a shot at you guys and gals!



Please keep an eye open on this reflector for the planned VK-NA SOTA S2S action which is expected following the success of the the VK-EU ones and the EU-NA one. In those we had CW, SSB and digital summits active.

It’s all about propagation and timing of course.

73 Ed.

Thanks Ed. Have u heard of a date yet for this event? My log shows late Feb to early May as best conditions for VK here in Arizona, late in the afternoon.


I often listen for US activators on CW. I often hear chasers and recognise some of the calls of folk posting to this reflector. N4EX for example. But the activators are rarely heard.

The closest I got to an S2S was when trying for an S2S to the KU6J ceremonial activation and I could hear the activation weakly, but my calls could not be heard over the din of US chasers. I heard signal reports like 599 being handed out; if genuine, my much weaker signals had no chance.

After working 20 domestic chasers, many activators vanish and after a minute or so sotawatch says they have moved to 40m or another band where I have no chance. No prop and even more local chasers.

When the US chasers are giving signal reports like 529 I am guessing that the activator isn’t radiating much power. This could be due to using very low power, or due to antenna limitations.

S2S contacts outside the US over the Pacific to VK/ZL will only occur if skeds are made on secret frequencies and US chasers are unaware of the activity. Alternatively good discipline exerted by the US activators to insist on local callers standing by for DX could work.

In our mornings just after sunrise I do hear increased signal levels from the US but I don’t have a directional antenna. From the call areas heard, I am guessing it is long path to the east coast. West coast signals are rarer at that time of day.

One further result from there being relatively few VK cw operators: there is not so much “local” QRM so DX has a good chance of being heard. I have good ears and can work up to 25wpm when necessary. But I only run 10w into portable antennas so don’t expect signals like VK3MO with his triple stack of yagis or quads. It ain’t gonna be that loud.

Summary: it isn’t just that VK/ZL operators don’t use CW (enough). There is more to it than that, especially in these times of very poor propagation.