Bushwhacking Dinsmore Mountain

Bushwhacking Dinsmore Mountain

Dinsmore Mountain is adjacent to Mt Israel in the Sandwich Range. It’s a trail-less peak, so you have to bushwhack to the summit. Dinsmore is on the NH500 highest peaks list which I’ve started working on. I hiked this mountain with my friend Ken, who is also working through the list. He has too much time on his hands and I view it as my responsibility to keep him out of trouble.

Dinsmore Mtn

Route Planning

Ken and I discussed two possible approaches to Dinsmore:

The first is to start at Mead Base, a rustic conference center and campground run by the Wonalancet Out Door Club, which serves as the trailhead for the Wentworth Trail which climbs Mt Israel. This is probably the easiest route because you can hike up the Wentworth Trail, which is graded and blazed, to your starting elevation before heading off trail for Dinsmore. The road to Mead base open in winter and there’s parking available year-round.

You can also approach the Dinsmore from the West, starting from Sandwich Notch Road, which is a very rough dirt road that is unmaintained in winter. I’ve driven it multiple times in non-winter conditions in low clearance passenger cars and they were never quite the same afterward. The road is pretty dicey in winter and spring when it’s icy, even with a higher clearance vehicle and four-wheel drive. While there are a few spots where you can pull off and park along the road, heading in from the west requires climbing the peak entirely off-trail and is more strenuous.

We opted for first of these because it was the easier of the two and we didn’t know what the driving conditions would be like on Sandwich Notch Road with the recent snowfall we’d had. The Forest Service usually closes the road at some point during the winter, but you never know exactly when.

Dinsmore Mountain
Dinsmore Mountain

The Bushwhack

We headed up the Wentworth Trail climbing 1500′ to 2400′ above a prominent cliff band, indicated on the map above, by the purple and red colored slope angle shading at that elevation. There are usually debris under a cliff, so it usually takes less energy to bushwhack above it.

Heading into spruce at the start of the bushwhack
Heading into spruce at the start of the bushwhack

We entered the wall of spruce trees bordering the trail, flipping up our rain jacket hoods to avoid getting snow falling off the limb down the back of our necks. We passed through an area of hobblebush that had been browsed by moose before the woods opened up and could see where we were heading.

The forest opened up and the going was relatively easy.
The forest opened up and the going was relatively easy.

This route wasn’t difficult to navigate because we just needed to head due west to reach Dinsmore. If you look at the map or the picture of the mountain above, you can see a short hump to the east of the summit and a col between the two. We hiked through that and back up to the main summit, climbing about 200′, before reentering the spruce guarding the mountain’s high point.

Re-entering spruce below the Dinsmore summit
Re-entering spruce below the Dinsmore summit

When we came to the wall of guard spruce, Ken had been hesitant to plunge in, since the trees were snow-covered. A lot of summit areas are covered in blown down trees which are both difficult and potentially dangerous to hike through, so his caution was justified. I spied an opening in between the trees and found that the spruce thinned out considerably on the other side.

Philip finds the summit canister
Philip finds the summit canister

We alternated leading through the spruce, climbing up the gradual slope until we spied the summit canister. After signing the register and eating lunch, we headed back the way we’d come, following our tracks in the snow. We hiked back to the exact spot we’d left the Wentworth Trail and hiked back down Mt Israel to our cars at the Mead Center. This had proved to be an easy peak to bushwhack.

Other Relevant Trip Reports

As a rule of thumb, I don’t pay much attention if any to other people’s bushwhack trip reports when planning a trip because I like to plan my own routes. Still, these made interesting reading after the fact and show that there are many different ways to bushwhack to the same peak.

Recommended Hiking Navigation Tools

I carry and use all of these navigation aids on hikes, both on-trail, and off-trail, in addition to a paper map. The most reliable tool is the compass, by far, because it only relies on the earth's magnetic field to operate. The others are also excellent, but they can generate false positives in the field and it's useful to have a compass along so you can verify the information they provide. 

  • Casio Pathfinder Solar Powered Altimeter Watch - are you sick of changing or charging your watch's batteries? This multi-function watch is solar-powered and the watch band is replaceable. I've been wearing one continuously for 5 years. I never take it off. It has time, date, compass, temperature, altimeter, barometer, stopwatch, backlit display blah blah. I mainly use the time and the altimeter. 
  • Suunto M3 Declination Adjustable Compass - great compass.  Set the declination and forget it. True north eliminates ever having to add or subtract degrees when going back and forth with a map and compass. I have the M3-NH (Northern Hemisphere) model. They also have an SH model and a G-model, which means it's a global compass that can be used north or south of the equator.
  • GaiaGPS Navigation App - there are some things about Gaia that really annoy me, but they have a lot of different maps and map layers to help you figure out where you are in the field. I mainly use the Gaia Topo and TF Outdoors base maps with the Slope Angle and the US Roads layer, which has forest/park service roads, fire roads, some snowmobile trails, and unpaved roads.  You can't carry all these maps at once unless they're available in digitized form on your phone. 
  • Caltopo - Caltopo doesn't have the programming staff that GaiaGPS does, but I still like it much better than Gaia's route planning tool. This is what I use on my laptop to plan and document my hikes. It's also very convenient for big picture planning especially when you're trying to block out a number of alternative routes. Caltopo also has an app, but I like Gaia's much better.

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About the author

Philip Werner has hiked and backpacked over 7500 miles in the United States and the UK and written over 2500 articles as the founder of SectionHiker.com, noted for its backpacking gear reviews and hiking FAQs. A devotee of New Hampshire and Maine hiking and backpacking, Philip is the 36th person to hike all 650 of the hiking trails in the White Mountain Guide, a distance of approximately 2500 miles, completing a second round in 2021. Philip is the author of Backpacking the White Mountain 4000 Footers, a free online guidebook of the best backpacking trips in the White Mountains in New Hampshire and Maine. He lives in New Hampshire.

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