DX University™

  A Guide for DXers and DXpeditioners

Making the Best of Your Time -- Study the Pileup

Making the Best of Your Time – Study the Pileup

by Wayne Mills, N7NG

This week’s topic is an extension of a previous discussion. Studying the pileup is still one of the most important topics of all, and again I am talking about listening.


In the early phases of a large expedition, the pileup is generally very large. As a result, it is much more difficult to find the station being worked. Studying the pileup in the early days can tell you if the DX op is working split, and it can tell you the size of the pileup; that is, what segment of the band it is occupying. You might be able to learning more of the inner structure of the pile – even to find a few stations the DX op is working – but it’s not easy. As a result, you might simply decide to call on the least occupied frequency or simply call on a clear spot at the upper or lower edge of the pile. Until you can determine who the operator is working and where he is listening, it’s pretty much guesswork.


For everyday operating, the pileups are such that you can learn what you need by tuning and listening during each QSO. Start by listening to the DX op. What is he saying? If he’s saying “up,” then you should start by listening up at least one kHz on CW and maybe 5 kHz on SSB and then proceed up the band. Unfortunately, what he says may not reflect what he’s doing. Here are some other things you might be able to determine, either by listening to the operator or to the pileup:


·        he’s listening “up”

·        he’s listening “up 5 to 15”

·        he’s “listening up,” but on only one frequency

·        he’s listening up, but has two or three big pileups

·        he’s says he’s listening up, but he’s actually listening downL


Practice listening with as large a bandwidth as you can tolerate. This is a very useful technique. If he says something more specific like “up 12 kHz,” then he might be listening exactly up 12 kHz, or he might be listening up at least 12 kHz. You’ll have to find out by listening. Sometimes a savvy DX op will say “63.” Here, he is likely saying no one is on a frequency that ends with 63, and he is giving you a clue. Take advantage of it.


Many times, a DX op in the middle phase of a big DXpedition will have more than one pileup going at the same time. Sometimes this is intentional, but usually it’s inadvertent because DXers who don’t listen to the pileup keep calling on the only frequency they know of. The operator might initially have said “up 5,” but then he moved and hasn’t said anything but “up.” This can lead to multiple pileups. Don’t just settle in on one of them. Find the pileups and then find a station he’s working.

Don’t be fooled: the whole point of this discussion is to suggest the great value in listening to the pileup to find the station that is being worked and then learn where to call next. You can’t learn these things by transmitting.

(c) 2012, Wayne Mills, N7NG