'Switchback' to Swampy completed by end of year

A dislike of going to the gym has led to a Dunedin man creating a new asset for the city's mountain biking fraternity.

Hamish Seaton has nearly completed the 7km-long intermediate grade "Switchback Track" from the Nichols Creek bridge, on Leith Valley Rd, to Swampy Summit, a climb of 600m.

Mr Seaton, a consultant electrical engineer originally from Christchurch, said he began work on the track about two years ago as a form of exercise.

"Over winter, I would go out and do stuff when the weather was bad. It was sort of like my free gym programme."

He completed the first kilometre with nothing more than a grubber and a handsaw, but has since had considerable help from workers on periodic detention, under the supervision of the Correct- ions Department, and from members of Mountain Biking Otago, a club of which he is now president.

The two-way track has a "reasonably easy" 3deg slope achieved by creating a series of "switchback" climbs.

"It's just a good grade for an intermediate person to be able to get up fairly easily and . . . since it's a low grade, you don't get people going too fast on it coming down.

"We've taken good care to keep the sight-lines fairly open and there are only one or two corners that are a little bit blind."

The top 2km passes through tall flaxes and the lower 5km is in bush, but there are clearings providing a view every 50 vertical metres.

"There are some lovely trees in there and I've tried to go past the larger specimen trees. It's not a bad piece of bush."

The $5000 cost had been met through community grants and other sources.

The land is owned by the Dunedin City Council, which approved the track, partly, Mr Seaton said, because it should reduce the number of mountain bikers illegally using, and damaging, the nearby walkers-only Pineapple Track.

The new track has still to be completely shingled to make it usable in wet weather, and some earthworks are required near the top.

Mr Seaton said riders were already walking the top section of the Nichols Creek walking track and linking up with the mountain biking track which runs along Swampy Ridge to the "Bullring" on Flagstaff Rd.

He hopes the track will be finished by the end of the year, when he plans to turn his attention to adding other elements to the city's network of mountain-biking routes.

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