DXing with minimal QRP, Part II - Keynote #8, 1997
Last month we covered dealing with a DX station who is taking answers on his own frequency. This is a fine technique until the pileup gets too large and covers up the DX station, making it impossible to know whom the DX is working. When this happens, the DX station goes to split frequency operation, transmitting on one frequency and listening on another, usually higher, frequency.
If you hear a DX station say UP (or UP1, UP2, etc.), that means he is listening to a frequency higher than his. The number is the number of kHz higher than his frequency he is listening. Leave your receive frequency on the DX station, and set your transmit frequency UP to where the DX is listening. If he just says UP with no number, generally that means UP 1, but not always. Then you have to find the pileup yourself. Once you determine where the DX station is listening, follow the same procedures as I mentioned last month. Just be sure you are transmitting and listening on the right frequencies. Every rig seems to have a slightly different way of accomplishing this.
If the pileup is huge, you might be better off transmitting slightly higher than the main pile. The DX station will often explore the upper (usually) edge of a pileup if he can't pick out calls from the main section of the pile. This is where the clever QRPer can often steal a QSO from the QRO stations. It's really a chess game, and whole sections of DXing books have been devoted to breaking a pileup.
A problem occurs when the DX station is listening UP, but never says so. This is where listening comes in. If you hear the DX working one station after another, but don't hear any of the stations he is working, it's time to tune UP and see if he is indeed working split frequency. Or you can go ahead and transmit on the DX frequency, and the self appointed DX policemen will very impolitely tell you the DX is listening UP. It's always better to know what's going on before you do any transmitting.
That's enough about the pile-up type of DXing. If you want to know more, just get on the air and practice, or read one of the many excellent books that have been written about DXing.
Let's touch on a few other DX topics. What about the minimal QRPer calling CQ DX. It's probably a waste of time. It might work when the sunspots increase and the higher bands become alive with DX again, but not right now. I have had DX stations answer my regular CQ's several times, but I wasn't calling CQ DX. In fact, my most distant QSO with VK6HQ came when he answered my regular CQ on 30M one evening. I was so shocked and excited I could hardly send. Even after the QSO, I was wondering if it was really true that I worked a VK6. It was, because I received his QSL card in a couple of weeks.
The easiest time to work DX is in contests, because the best operators in the world often go to exotic locations for contests to make themselves more desirable or just to activate some rare country. Plus you have the super contest stations in various countries operating with their huge antennas and state of the art receiving equipment. They are the ones who can dig out the weakest of signals, and are glad to do so for those few extra points they will get in the contest. Those points may just help them beat out another top notch contester. You may have a tough time beating the pileups at the beginning of a contest, but often these super contest stations almost go begging for QSO's near the end of a contest period. Then is the time you may easily work them.
Also for the week or so just before contests, many of the stations setting up for the contest will check out their equipment by working as many folks as possible. At these times they may also operate on the WARC bands (30, 17, 12) which are not available for operation in the contest itself. They often stay at their locations for a few days after contests also.
At this stage in the sunspot cycle, I find the best band for DX is 30M outside contests, and 20 and 15 meters in the contests themselves.
Always let the DX station dictate the type of QSO. If you answer a DX station outside a pileup, and he still sends just a report, you do the same. If he sends RST, QTH, and Name (OP), then you may be fortunate enough to find yourself with a DX rag chew. Send your QTH (maybe just the state), and name, and maybe mention you are running QRP. It doesn't happen too often, but I have had some very nice rag chews with DX stations. I recall a few I especially enjoyed. I chatted for a half hour with a German who was on vacation in the Canary Islands. A PJ2 wanted to know all about my QTH. I had a nice chat with an Italian talking about my Italian heritage (my mother is Italian). A German asked me all about my QRP rig. And several others as well. These are the DX QSO's I find really rewarding, although I appreciate the RST only ones also. You CAN rag chew with DX using QRP when conditions are good.
Next month starts the second year of this column, and I plan a little reprise of the previous columns for those many folks who have joined FISTS during the past year.
Well, I'm out of space again. Email me if you have questions, comments, etc. Till next month, 73. -30-