Brandeis climber Sora Haagensen ’25 competes in national championship

Sora Haagensen clings to a small hold on an indoor climbing wall covered in plastic holds in a variety of colors.
Sora Haagensen ’25 warms up on Brandeis’ bouldering wall.

Photo Credit: Dan Holmes

By David Levin
June 3, 2024

A photo collage shows two closeup images of Sora Haagensen's hands. In one, dust floats into the air as she rubs powdered chalk on her palms and fingers. In the other, her chalk-covered hands grip a plastic indoor climbing hold.

Sora Haagensen ’25 is on her way to the top — literally. At the end of May, she represented Brandeis at the 2024 USA Climbing collegiate national championship near Phoenix, Arizona. Haagensen earned her spot at nationals after winning first place at the Northeast division qualifying event in women’s bouldering, a climbing style that requires complex sequences of moves to scale a short wall.

Although Haagensen also competes in speed climbing and sport climbing (styles that require a rope and harness), she feels particularly drawn to the simplicity of bouldering, where athletes’ only equipment are climbing shoes, powdered chalk, and padded mats. She also cherishes the camaraderie with her teammates in the Brandeis Climbing Club. While training together, they freely trade techniques, advice, and “beta,” or information about a particular sequence of moves needed to complete a route. That kind of positivity is alive and well even during competitions.

“It’s interesting, because even though we’re competing against each other, there’s still a collaborative aspect that I feel is unique to the sport,” she says. “Everyone’s trying hard to win, but at the same time, if you figure how to do a particular move on a route, you usually share what you learned, and then everyone on the team does better.”

At nationals, she went toe-to-toe with more than 400 other climbers from across the nation, finishing 54th in bouldering and 46th in sport climbing. Although her achievement puts her among the best collegiate climbers in the nation, she isn’t entirely focused on just winning—most of the joy of climbing lies in the growth and experiences Haagensen has along the way. “It’s less about competing against other people; it’s really just a competition between you and the wall,” she says.