This post may contain affiliate links.

Climbing Jennings Peak in Winter

William, Gail, and John at Jennings Peak overlooking Sandwich Dome
William, Gail, and John at Jennings Peak overlooking Sandwich Dome

Jennings Peak (3440′) is a 52-with-a-View mountain in Waterville Valley at the top of Acteon Ridge. It has a great view of massive Sandwich Dome Mountain (shown above) which at 3993′ is just seven feet shy of being a 4000 footer.

I climbed in on a frosty day with four other hikers from the Random Group of Hikers, a 5000+ person Meetup Group, on a trip organized by my friend John Lagasse, who I hadn’t seen in a few years. We climbed Jennings by doing a loop hike, climbing the Sandwich Mountain Trail to the Jennings Spur Path and then descending on the Drakes Brook Trail.

The trail was packed out most of the way up, so we only needed microspikes for the climb. We carried snowshoes anyway, a prudent call since you never know what trail conditions will be like on some of the lesser climbing winter peaks. Anything that’s not a 4000 footer in the Whites is a lesser-climbed peak.

Sachem Peak seen from Jennings Peak
Sachem Peak seen from Jennings Peak

But the Sandwich Mountain Trail was unrelentingly steep. It started with a bridged (snow-bridge that is) crossing over Drakes Brook and then climbed 2000′ almost non-stop. It levels off shortly before the spur path to Jennings Peak, which winds through krumholz to several nice viewpoints.

The last time I climbed Jennings was in 2010 and I’d pretty much forgotten everything about the route, so it felt like I was hiking it for the first time. The last time the summits had been in and out of the fog, so I was hoping for better views this time. In addition to Sandwich Dome, I wanted to catch a glimpse of Sachem Peak, a small mountain below Jennings that I bushwhacked a few years ago. The view of the Sachem Peak cliff-face and summit was spectacular from Jennings.

When we started this hike the temperature at the trailhead had been 0 degrees and it didn’t go up much from there. So after summiting Jennings, we hiked back down via the Drakes Brook Trail which terminates at the same trailhead where we started.

We’d had a great hike, I saw some old friends – John and William, and met some new ones – Brian and Gail. Not a bad way to spend 5.5 hours on a winter day.

Approximate distance: 6 miles with 2000′ of elevation gain.

Recommended Guidebooks and Maps:

SectionHiker is reader-supported. We only make money if you purchase a product through our affiliate links. Help us continue to test and write unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.


  1. I should really get back to bagging the 52 with a view. Those peaks have so much more character than the 4000 footers!

    • They are special. No doubt about it. Just climbed my 49th today. Black Mountain. Hope to finish them all this year.

      • Hi,

        Can you tell me if parking for Black Mountain (Benton) was fine? I had read online that winter conditions sometimes creates a parking issue; maybe its a dirt road? Assume you went up chippewa trail. Wondering if you also went to see the Kilns?

        Thanks so much–
        Hope to see you out on the trails of 52WAV

  2. What foot wear/ foot gear did you use for this hike?

    • Salomon Toundra winter boots and hillsound trail crampon ultra spikes. There were spots where we could have used snowshoes up near the summit, we carried them, but kept on going without them. The most gradual route is up the Drakes Brook Trail.

      • Thank you! It Is instructive to know what you used. I have used TSR Symbioz snowshoes which I find easy to use, along with Kahtoolas on my old Merrill winter boots. I notice you like the Hillsound crampon ultra spikes, about which you wrote an impressive review. If the terrain had been at a steeper angle, would you have opted for a regular crampon with longer toe points? Thank you.

  3. Thank you – It is instructive to know what you used. If the terrain had been steeper, would you have used “regular” crampons, ones with longer toe points? I use micro spikes and Symbioz snowshoes on my winter boots ( minus 40 rated).
    Did anyone in your party bring or use regular crampons? Many thanks.

    • No one brought regular crampons. There are very few trails in the whites that actually require front points (used in ice climbing) that you’d want or even be able to hike in winter because of the danger. You’d be surprised at how far you can go with just micro spikes and good footwork which requires keeping all of the spikes in the snow and angling your feet so you don’t slip. As for when to use longer spikes, even the microspike variety, I usually make that judgement based in the presence of ice covered ledge along the route to prevent an uncontrolled slide. Read about the route carefully in the WMG and study your map. You don’t have to go above 3k feet in the whites to experience open ledge and above treeline conditions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Solve *