When Sam Incardona set out to climb Pyramid Peak in Colorado’s Aspen wilderness, he brought along his GoPro (natch) as well as a new device for recording 3D audio: the Hooke Verse. Pyramid Peak was to be Incardona’s 21st “fourteener” — climber-speak for a mountain peak with an elevation of at least 14,000 feet. Incardona, a digital marketing strategist based in Denver, records his climbs because he wants to inspire other people to try it out for themselves.

“I’m a huge advocate for the sport, both as a physical exercise and as a cathartic mental experience, “ Incardona says. “It makes you focus with the utmost concentration on the activity right in front of you — which is to not fall to your death. You learn a lot about yourself, and decision making, and calculated risk taking. A lot of people haven’t climbed before so I wanted to put together a fully immersive media experience to help galvanize interest.”

The GoPro may be the perfect tool for capturing the visual aspect of a death-defying experience, but the built-in microphone doesn’t come anywhere close to capturing what that experience sounds like. That’s where the Hooke Verse comes in. The Verse is the world’s first binaural 3D audio headset, with microphones embedded in each earbud. The Verse produces 360 audio so immersive that whoever listens to your recording through any ordinary pair of headphones will hear exactly what you heard, how you heard it, as though they were listening through your ears.

“The GoPro helps you see exactly what I see as I climb,” Incardona says, “so it was really cool to include an audio component because now you can hear what I was hearing. I’d never climbed with headphones in before, but once I figured out how to use the Verse, I didn’t even notice I was wearing them. You can hear how my breathing changes the higher I climb — and how nervous I’m getting. I literally start talking to myself. Minus the tactile sensation, you’re almost getting the whole experience.” Check it out for yourself.

Incardona’s favorite part of the recording occurs at the base of the final peak. “There’s this huge rock cut-out and the face is right in front of you,” he says. “It’s naturally shaped like an amphitheater so any yells or noises have this crazy echo. Everyone was taking turns hooting and hollering, and it was really cool to be able to pick that up.”

Though the headset itself was never a hindrance, Incardona did wind up learning a couple things by trial and error about how to ensure a clean recording with the Verse while rock climbing.

  • He used an elastic chest harness to house his GoPro, and there were times when the chord connecting the GoPro through the harness to the Verse would jar loose. So, for his next 3d audio-recorded climb, Incardona applied a small piece of duct tape where the chord ran into the harness.
  • The connecting chord that comes with the Verse features a wheel mechanism for letting in or giving out cable. “If you have a helmet on, as Incardona did, “the wheel might bounce against the helmet,” he says, “and you’ll pick up peripheral noise.” His solution: simply tuck the wheel under the helmet

Incardona applied these lessons when he took the Verse to South Dakota to climb the back of Mount Rushmore. “In Colorado, climbing is a more mainstream thing to do,” he says. “You have a lot of beginners, a lot more bolts to clip into, and a lot more general information on the routes. South Dakota is more of a Wild West. Some of the bolts are old and rusty and super far apart. Which is cool! But it definitely takes a toll on you mentally.”

Incardona continues: “When you’re really scared to move, you get ‘T-rex’ arms. There’s this part [at the 5:58 mark] where I shimmy up a crack and the holds are really small. I say ‘Ooh, that’s tight’ — and not ‘tight’ in the cool way.”

Rock climbing is a seasonal pursuit. When winter rolls around, Incardona will start skiing down mountains (rather than scaling them with his bare hands). And the Verse is just as good at picking up the swooshing of snow. No matter what kind of GoPro adventurer you are, the Verse is your best option — in fact, it’s your only one — for enhancing your viewer’s sensation of immersion with 3D audio.

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