How I handle a pile-up

Every operator handling a pile-up does it based on his own experience, knowledge and training. That is the reason why it takes different techniques to work a DX-station. I will try to explain my policy and operating practice in working the pile-up during my expeditions.

Now with DX-clusters and Reverse Beacon Network, DXers will notice immediately when a DX-pedition comes on the air or switching to a different band. Not only the transmit frequency is mentioned but often also the listening frequency. It is therefore that only after a few QSO’s you need working split.
During most of my operations I work just a few kHz up but also depending on the size of the pile-up, this may be extended a bit. Personally I don’t like 10, 15, 20 0r even 30 kHz split. It takes a considerable portion of the band and it becomes more difficult to work a DX-pedition. This also means it takes longer to work a DX-pedition and consequently occupies bandwidth for a longer period but also let the pile-up growing. However, I have not experienced pile-ups like those of Juan de Nova, Heard island, South Georgia and therefore cannot make a good judgement but for my own operations I try to reduce the width of the pile-up as much as possible.

When running split, I try to move the listening frequency as little as possible. That is easier for myself and I can work faster (taking the full call sign at once). So now and then I will move the listening frequency (sometimes by 1 or 2 kHz) to find a spot that is a bit more quite. However, with the available technologies today, the listening frequency is always easily and quickly discovered.

I prefer to listen with wide filters in the first place. This is perhaps not the most obvious approach but it does bring me one advantage. With the filter on “wide” I can select a station based on the audio-pitch of the signal and I discovered it works quite well for me. Without touching any button or knob, I can copy signals that are 1 or 2 kHz (or even more) separated, by just concentrating on the audio pitch. Practice is that once you work a signal with a high pitch, many station take the same frequency after I completed the QSO. That means that particular frequency become rather difficult again but by just using my ears, I can pick a station with an audio pitch 2 kHz lower.
Although the description above is my general practice, it does not mean that you will not notice different behavior. This all depends on the circumstances, QRM, behavior of the pile-up, etc.

Only full call sign please
I think I can speak for all DX-peditions when requesting to transmit only FULL CALL SIGNS. Sending partial calls is slowing down the QSO rate and is also distorting the QSO rhythm. Fortunately only a few people doing that.

The right QSO rhythm
In order to achieve a high QSO rate, one should show the audience (the DXers) how the game has to be played in order having a chance to make a successful QSO. This requires the DX-pedition station to show clearly how the work is done and even more important, to do this consistently. My practice is to call a station, exchange the reports and conclude the contact with R TU. This is the sign that the audience can call again. In case a station makes a correction on his/her call during the exchange of reports, I will repeat the corrected call sign followed by R TU.

Once I have started to work a station, I’m committed to finalize that QSO. This sometimes led to continuous requests to QRX and standby in order being able to complete the QSO. As a result, we loose time and the opportunity to give others a chance but most important, we were able to complete a QSO that was initiated and shows all others that it was useless to interfere or steal a QSO. In other situations I had to ask the Europeans to standby and to give JA, VK/ZL or US a chance. On a few occasions I was about to stop the operation for a while due to the lack of cooperation.

I have also noticed that some stations sending their call continuously until I pick them out of the pile up. This is not a good practice and will only cause more trouble to pick a call sign.

One note on the announcements on the DX-clusters
People seem to expect that they can work DX and DX-peditions quickly and when it takes more time, or if they are asked to QRX because another continent will be given a chance, they get frustrated. This is also reflected by the comments on the DX-clusters. People often do not realize what it takes to organize a DX-pedition and that propagation, local circumstances, equipment failure, etc. all play a role. Besides that, most places will be visited by a next DX-pedition, so there is another chance.

Next time you hear on the air again, enjoy and relax and hopefully you will managed to make a QSO. Keep in mind that I often only work with 100 Watts and simple antennas. Thanks for your cooperation!