Updated! Fisk me? Fisk you! If you’re climbing, you had better be ready to use the Fisk!

New Update: Rope and Rescue did a great job explaining why they like the Petzl ID better than the Fisk! Let the debate continue! http://blog.ropeandrescue.com/11-reason-the-petzl-id-is-better-than-a-fisk/  Tell me what you think and sign up for my newsletter! Which do you like better, the Fisk or Petzl ID. I know many of you understand that they could have different applications, but what do you prefer to use?  The Fisk is not easy like Petzl ID, is it. Could something with no moving parts fail? Have you ever known a Petzl ID to fail? Let me know! 

Update: I have to tell you, this is a good subject and I got some great comments. Mentioning that the Fisk is something people got used to is a great point. However, if we know it well, it would be a good idea to stick with it until we learn something new, right? If you know the PETZL ID then maybe you should stick with that until you learn something new. It seems there are more devices out there and maybe we should follow the safety practice at our company. I wonder if NATE or OSHA recommends one in particular, does anyone know?

If you have been trained in rescue on a tower then you should know how to use a Fisk. Do you know how to use a Fisk or what the difference is between the Fisk and Figure 8 is? Do you know what either one is? Well, let me tell you.

A Fisk is something you use for controlled descent. It is an invaluable tool! One you should never be without if there is rope rigged on the tower. Do you understand that this is something that could save someone’s life? This brilliant little tool is what a climber is tested with in training to pull someone off a tower in a controlled descent. It will be the single most important thing that stands between an injured climber and getting to safety. It is something that only a good climber would have on his or her belt. It is something that we are taught and pray they we only use to save time, not a life. Read on if you’re interested!

A Fisk is a simple piece of steel, or stainless steel, that when wrapped properly has 19″ of drag. Why does that matter, well it matters because that is what will give you control of the descent. Controlled descent, which you, the climber, control. Control can be very important when you are 300′ in the air. You would like to control your descent. It is so much safer than an uncontrolled descent! You want to use a Fisk over a Figure 8, if you wonder why then read on.

Update! Hey, I didn’t realize this but apparently the new standard is the Petzl ID. I really appreciate the feedback! I see why the industry is going to it, it looks very easy to use. I know it must be reliable but we will have to hear more feedback. It seems there are mixed feelings about whether it is well liked or not. Most older climbers like the Fisk, but the younger guys seem to think it’s hard to use and too heavy. (Personally I never thought it was too heavy, you climb right, too heavy? I used to pull up 80lb mounts by hand, too heavy!) Thank you all for the comments. This surprised me but times change and I guess the Petzl ID is easier to use. So to be fair I thought I should update this article and add some information about the Petzl ID. While I am not a huge fan of this device yet, there must be a good reason for the change. I am still fan of the Fisk, always will be because it’s a good tool. However, the feedback is that we should be using the Petzl ID, and in Canada it’s required.

This is from Comtrain, http://www.comtrainusa.com/instructor-corner.php  ;

Has the fisk been outlawed?
No, the fisk HAS NOT been outlawed. Many influential companies have safety plans and policies implementing ANSI standards calling for auto-locking or auto-braking devices which eliminates the fisk as part of their allowed equipment. Many safety associations and organizations have also adopted the “no fisk” type standards but OSHA has not. Until OSHA adopts and starts to enforce the standards that would render the fisk obsolete or “outlawed”, it is still an accepted tool for controlled descent.” 

So we should all be on the same page. Here are some links to help you out, http://www.petzl.com/us/pro/self-braking-descenders-0/id-s http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFJTPlVoDeE, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Arb6bLu9oUU, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vp0AwqdVbvg, and this video is done very well so go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2TyQYjszvM,  Some more, http://lib.store.yahoo.net/lib/yhst-130886807729581/Petzl-ID-L-Descender-Belay-User-Instructions.pdfhttp://youtu.be/3ypMZdDF1nkhttp://youtu.be/SZ891i7ZVao.

So do you know the difference between a Figure 8 and a FISK. A FISK is what you should be using for controlled descent. A heavy-duty FISK. If you don’t know what this is, then you should not be climbing or descending commercially. You definitely should not attempt a rescue with a Figure 8, but only a FISK. Even if it’s a stainless Figure 8, just don’t do it. Fisk is designed for commercial use. Remember to have your safety rope attached to your safety lanyard, there is an example in one of the videos below.  Properly using a Fisk could mean the difference between life and death, your or someone you are attempting to rescue. This device is critical in controlled descent for the climber. Not a toy, a tool. This is something that you should practice every few months.

Look at this link to see the difference! Don’t buy anything, just a reference for you to look, unless you really want to buy one. However, your boss should be buying these for you! 


Don’t be Stupid! When descending, always carry a FISK when on the tower with Rope!

Now that you know what a fisk is, do you know how to use it? If you are certified in safety and rescue then you should know! But, if it has been awhile or if you are learning, then here are some helpful hints. Just remember that it’s all about the drag, 19” of drag to be exact. It is a good idea to practice when you can. Make it a second nature to use it. It is easy to forget! Don’t be stupid, practice!


12 minutes but real live use of a fiskhttp://youtu.be/tvym1z_h0v0

Here are some official instructions. These are on DBI SALA’s web site.


Another instructional sitehttp://storrick.cnc.net/VerticalDevicesPage/Rappel/HornPages/Horn0353.html

FISK2 Figure of 8 FISKPetzel ID Red


  1. There are a lot of opinions posted here and very few documented examples of failures of any said devices. I would like to see published reports of any failures if a point is to be proven. I believe they may have and could happen and wish to god nobody has to experience it but that’s not reality. I just got into the tower industry shy of two years ago but have over sixteen years experience rock climbing, and caving, a lifetime in the Boy Scouts and have worked with a H.A.R.T, cave rescue squad and another municpal Rescue Squad, commercial tree trimming and Army. Air Assault during my term. This means I’ve done things that I probably shouldn’t have such as abseiling on 550 cord with a Munter Hitch and using some anchors that shouldn’t have been used. But everything from Munter Hitches, figure eights, rescue eights, j racks, gri-gri, fisk, ID, and scarabs and even improvised caribiner racks have been trained on and used. I love the simplicity of the fisk. It works. I’ve never had to do more than 250′ with it or a rescue but Iknow it will work. Same as any other device and technique I’ve practiced on. The ID works but Ido have reservations about doubling the load on it in rescue. I trust the manufacturer specs but it’s also not the easiest thing to use with the sweetspot. I know well enough to use what is prescribed by the ruling safety organization. I’ve gotten long winded but I guess my points are use what’s allowed, the safest option of those, and make sure everybody has training on multiple options. There should always be backup and contingency plans. I’ll check back on here to see if reports and published examples of failures and injuries are used. Glad to see a lot of people. Are at least interested in the topic.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting article. The debate on what device to use for a rescue scenario will always rage on. I would like to raise a interesting yet valuable point. The petzel ids are rated to a maximum weight if 159kg. Now you are able to increase this with a carabiner configuration however i believe the max is 200kg. Now if we think about the average rigger who would weigh say 80kg rescuing another rugger say 90kg we are at 170kg. No other weight taken into consideration like tools, hooks, etc. This is putting us dangerously close to the maximum weight that the petzel id can safely carry if not exceeding. This poses a problem and questions why this device would be recommended to be used.


  3. I have heard too much about how IDs fail. After 440lbs on the device, it WILL fail. so let’s say you’re having to resue a climer…two 180 pound men + 60 pounds minimum with belt and equipment is 480lbs. I’m sorry but I would not trust a device that fails after 440 pounds if I have to rescue someone.


    • Thanks for your comment! I know that is the case. It is also a mechanical device, meaning it has to be maintained and inspected regularly. They wear out and they fail. However, the FISK is something that you need to know how to use and work with regularly. That is why the Petzl ID is more popular, it seems anyone can do it but most newer climbers have no idea how to run the rope through a FISK. It can also be run as a figure 8, allowing someone lighter, say around 150lbs, to go faster. It is all about the drag.


  4. I am a fan of both the Fisk and the petzel ID for some of the younger climbers it seems to be easier to understand hour to use the ID. I have use both quite rigorously and both tools seem to preform the same. The only big diffrence I have noticed is the ID has a weight limit. I guess it all depends on the climber and what they want to use but both tools are reliable, and secure. The only problem now is finding people that still know how to rig a Fisk


    • I guess there is no prefect solution. The Petzl ID is pretty easy to work with and seems to be a standard but the Fisk seems like a great solution for controlled descent. I do see how it would be hard for someone who doesn’t practice using the Fisk could have problems. It all comes down to practice and repetition.


    • Wade, there is a perfect solution, thats using a device that meets your needs and is safe to use.
      Has no one here EVER done any critical thinking in the systems the Rig!
      What do you all do, just rig something an HOPE it works!
      Think about it, look at what your rigging and break it down to get the safest system!, for example:

      System with a Fisk – Non-Autolocking (NOT GOOD), Limted to 400pls normal load or can be used in an emergency *Not good when the manufacturer doesnt even tell you what that emergency load can be!),
      The Fisk has a 300′ descent limit – NOT GOOD as it limits the devices use.

      Compare to the No Worries, again by Capital Safety, the makers of the Fisk;
      No Worries – Auto-locking (Excellent!)
      WLL – 660lbs for the 1/2″ device.
      Descent distance – 492′ although I know the man who is redesigning the current No Worries, in saying that….. there will be a new No Worries released in the near future, and why will there be a new model No Worries…….BECAUSE OF IMPROVEMENTS!

      I drive a modern Truck, not an old one you crank at the front to fire up.
      Technology advances for a reason gentlemen, embrace the improvements of life saving equipment, don’t fight it.
      The Fisk had its day, there are new players in the field of descent control devices, let them do their thing and as with the Fisk…they will be improved upon and replaced also.
      The argument for the Fisk is one you will never win, especially in a court of law when your trying to explain why you love the Fisk so much and the expert witness is killing your argument based upon simple pro’s and cons of every modern, auto-locking device versus your old piece of steel, the Fisk.


  5. The Petzl ID is an excellent device for rescue (in fact we feature it our rescue kits!). There are a few similar devices that have come out recently that should also be considered. The DBI No Worries and the ISC D4 are both self-braking anti-panic devices like the ID.

    As an added bonus, the D4 is the first descent device of it’s kind to be stamped ANSI.


  6. In my previous position I was the SE Regional Safety Trainer for American Tower Corp. and have been trained in the Fisk, the Petzl ID, the Derope, Trachtel’s kit, Gravitech’s kit and several others. I would not recommend the Fisk for rescue to anyone unless it was the only thing available. It does not have a good track record and can be dangerous to use. The higher the rescue the more dangerous as the rope is twisted and heated to breaking points even with just one person attached and the lack of an automatic breaking is not good. The Fisk also makes a suspended rescue vitually impossible. Personally I recommend the Petzl ID as it is much more functional and almost impossible to use wrong even for a green hand. Couple it with a Croll and pulley and you have Self-Resue, a load transfer, and a suspended rescue. Just good for thought…


    • Kevin,
      Thanks for the feedback. It’s really good to know that someone who was in rescue actually relies heavily on the ID. I get how functional it is and I agree that for over 300′ the fisk is very hard to work with. Do you have documented problems with the fisk as a problem during rescue, that would help me out in a future article. I can’t seem to find anything other that hearsay. I do appreciate the feedback because it helps me get a broader view of what is happening in the field today.


    • A suspended rescue (Pick Off) is possible using the Fisk, the Rack, the Rescue 8 etc etc….its all about training.
      And any descender over 300′ is hard to work with….the rope weighs the same no matter what descender your using!
      At 300′ on a Turbine I can open the handle on my ID without controlling the brake line and the weight of the rope is enough to control my descent for me.
      Wade, don’t rely on what people are posting in this thread to get a broader view for a future article, take them as input but go out and use the gear yourself, form your own opinions by using the gear, replicate the environments you are talking about and that will help with your article.


      • I know the Fisk has a 300′ limitation and no brakes, just a device that is out there to use. For it’s time it was something which was better than nothing, but I did like using it.When I climbed I climbed mostly tower under 300′, with a few exceptions. I was most familiar with the Fisk.
        Good point about using all that is out there. I will make a point to try each one in the future.
        Thanks for the input!


  7. You are foolish to not embrace the ID. A fisk is just a figure 8 that they charge 10 times the money for. The best answer is qualified techs who are competent with any device.


  8. Petzl ID vs Fisk,

    As with any other argument, there are always 2 sides to every story. The controversy between the FIsk and Petzl ID has been going on since the ANSI Z-359 standard dictated in 2007 that you must have a device which has an automatic lock if you pull too hard in a panic or let go completely. This takes the human element out of the equation, you know the one which brings down 90% of the towers we work on. I have been in the industry since 2000, and before that I was a Firefighter/Paramedic/High Angle Rescue Instructor for the state of Ga. I have have used most of the friction descent devices out there, which is what the Fisk falls into, and they have worked well for whatever we used them for. In our industry, we took the Fisk to heart as our own device for controlled descent and rescue when Sala allowed Comtrain to promote it. I have used the FIsk many times in the field, and yes I did not want to change when the ID was introduced to me. I was an old die hard for what I thought was the most simple, fool proof item to use in the event of an emergency. Like many I got caught up in the ease of use and ruggedness of it. It was during a rescue practice one day that I was returned back to earth and had to realize the problems with the FIsk. The principle behind any friction control device is, well, the friction. The Fisk works so well because of the amount of rope which is in contact with the steel as it passes around it. This all hinges, however, on what we call the control hand. We have all heard it before when training, “do not let go with this had, or you will fall” The control hand, whether it be the right or the left , is needed to keep constant tension on the rope to keep it from running through the device too fast and possibly not allowing you to gain control. This is not so much a problem with one person, but if there is a rescue and there are 2 personnel on the rope and you let go, there is not telling where you will stop. Probably the ground. The rescue training I witnessed was one worker attempting to rescue another from about 100′ The rescue was going well and he had already cut him loose, when we still did that, and he was headed to the ground. about halfway down, he lost control of the rope and thank God for the rope grab and lifeline. What if that had been an actual rescue and they were up 200′ and there was no lifeline? I realized to put one’s life completely in the hands and control of another person is sometimes scary. The FIsk also is not much use over 300′ due to the friction caused by the weight of the rope below you.

    When I first used the ID, I thought it was not rugged enough. Aluminum and plastic at first glance. This device is automatic and like someone said earlier there is a sweet spot. Sometimes this is easy to find and for some it is not. This device uses a camming action to slow the descent. If the rescuer is using this and lets go, there would be 2 people hanging on the rope not in a pile on the ground. After numerous uses I started liking it more, and I really like the fact that I can ascend back up the rope with it by adding a small block and rope grab above the ID on the descent line. This really comes in handy when I am descending over the platforms or boom mounts to get to an RRU to weatherproof or photo. I then just ascend back up the rope to where I started from. You can also use this device as with a small mechanical advantage system where the ID takes up and holds the slack.

    Remember, the Fisk is not outlawed, nor is the ID the only automatic choice out there, but it is a question you have to ask yourself after something happens. “Did I use the Best Work Practices and equipment available?” If you are sitting in a court of law this might be the question the lawyer asks and if you did not say I was using or allowing someone to use a device which is automatic, you are not following the standards which are now governing our industry.


    • Jeff,
      Great stuff, thank you for the comment. I do appreciate it. You are correct in what you said at the end about the best work practices. Thank you for taking the time to put this long but informative comment here. I do appreciate the input.


  9. I have seen the Petzl ID used in a emergence situation. Man rescued another man twice his size and weight from 300 feet and it worked like a charm. It’s great to see that people are still designing better rescue equipment for the TowerDogs. Just my Two cents.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. CBRNEkiwi: Implying that it’s the safest device due to the fact that you can physically see points of failure when using the Fisk. I do understand that the Fisk Descender has contributed to a large number of deaths in the industry. This is only because most of the green hands are being tossed into the gauntlet due to pressures of completion. A lot of them come into the field knowing it all and never ask questions because they feel there is something to be proved. Completely disregarding that they need to go home in the evening on their own 2 legs and not a box.

    I’ve seen 2 failures with a I’D while watching climbers practice. Thank god for a Rope Grab. The failures did not result in any injury.

    As I recall, A lot of the Fisk-Related deaths, the descending climber was not attached to a lifeline. Even on Facebook, some of these selfies taken while descended does not have any life line in existence.

    One time, One of my old co-workers was talking to a Build Crew working under a AT&T Contract on a ATC / AT&T Longwire Site. The crew lead, himself, asked while my team was using 2 ropes on a controlled-decent or as he called it “rappelling”. My co-worker explained that the second rope was a lifeline being a backup plan if something awful did happen. The crew lead thought it was an excessive amount of work and not needed.

    So maybe you need to have some of what I’ve been smoking. I stand by my previous comment.


    • I call BS on the two failures you’ve seen of the ID, a failure of a device is never kept in-house and always goes to the manufacturer, and there have been no mention of two failures. And te guy before who said a failure was when he saw the panic lock activate, that is not a failure that is the device doing it’s job, the fact the clown using it couldn’t self rescue shows he shouldn’t have been using it in the first place. Come on gents, keep your Fisk as a paper weight on your desk and move up with the times, technology is a great thing!


      • CBRNEkiwi,
        Good point, they were in controlled environments and they both say that it is possible that operator error was the case. I do believe that in any case you need to know what you are doing and if using a Petzl ID just make sure the rope matches the ID. Jeff brought up some great points about rescue and what to use. I guess the point I would make is to have a plan no matter what you are using and make sure you are familiar and trained and practice with what you’re using.


      • I also call BS!!! Like I said a man weighing 150 lbs give or take rescued a man over 250 lbs in a emergencie situation ( body locked up due to dehydration unable to assist the rescuer at all) I witnessed a first time user of the Petzl ID besides training work the devise from 300′ like a champ. He had no issue’s what so ever. Due to that rescue device I still have both of my good friends. I can not say the same out come would have happened if a Fisk was used. I love my working device (Fisk) but not enough to put my life or my guys at risk bc of untrained hands not thoroughly trained with the Fisk over and over and over. Note I’ve used the Fisk my entire career.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Mr. Wade, thanks for supporting the fisk, regardless of your knowledge of the Petzl I’D.
    In my opinion, & +14 yrs, the fisk should never be replaced! The I’D’s new-found dependancy in tower work is due to one of the turfing vendors requirements, and was probably pushed by Petzl sales-folk to be included in the vendor’s ‘Rescue Plan Requirements.’
    I can’t confirm at the moment, but I recall reading about a water tower worker in the NW I believe, who was using an I’D to rappel, initiated the panic lever, and had to be rescued himself.
    I second Michael’s comment above, mechanical components can fail, a cast piece of metal will not…. unless improperly trained in its use.


    • You ever thought the new found dependence in Tower work is due to the experience of the Tower Riggers and Tower Trainers themselves looking at the ID and the Fisk and saying “Yup, the Fisk has had its day, the ID is safer”.
      Its nothing to do with the manufacturer, Petzl DOES NOT have ANY input into Rescue Plans of the thousands of Tower Riggers around the US or the world for that mater….they have limited resources and manpower!!!
      Think about your statement, Petzl does not want the liability related to rescue planning!
      Also, anything can fail, mechanical or a solid piece of metal….that’s why we do NDT inspections on solid pieces of gear,

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Here in Western Canada we are regulated by Canada Labour Code which states we must use a Fail Safe device. The best to date is the Petzal ID. I am experienced on Figure 8, Ladder Rack, the Can, Fisk, and the Petzal ID. I think each device has it’s purpose but we must follow our local Industry Rules. Each Country, Company, and Industry will have their own set of rules. Just make sure you know which set of Regulations to go by.
    PS: I prefer the Petzal ID for Tower work.


  13. In the more recent comtrain classes.they are saying that OSHA has taken fisks off of the safe devices list for controlled descent. The only thing allowed according to ” COMTRAIN ” is the People ID. Personally I would choose a Fisk over the petite anyday.


    • The only reason ComTrain leans towards a Petzl I’D is because it’s suppose to be idiot-proof. The problems I see with a I’D is 1.) It’s mechanical and enclosed rendering difficulties during a naked-eye inspection. 2.) It does have a sweet-spot that causes it to not operate properly.

      Fisk Descender, to me, Is the absolute safest method of descending and rescuing, PERIOD. Rather than leaning towards “Idiot-Proof” devices that are prone to failure, Teach and Practice with a Fisk.

      This is just a opinion based on field experience and possibly be completely bias towards I’D.


      • Tere a reason why the regulators are moving towards idiot proof devices, it’s because many idiots work at heights. I’m not sure what your smoking by dying te Fisk is the safest device out there, simple critical thinking proves your wrong on that point. Give me one report of the Petzl ID failing…..


      • The only argument in should need to provide for the fisk is the fact that it is not limited to any one size rope. You can use a risk to descend down in an emergency situation with ANY rope on the tower. While the I’d is designed for idiots it is also limited to a particular size rope. You can buy them for 7/16 or 1/2″ rope. While 1/2″ rope is very common, we typically have smaller and larger ropes rigged. And in an emergency situation it would be disastrous to put an id on a rope that was too small and having the I’d fail during the rescue.

        Liked by 1 person

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