He got the nickname because he was regularly spotted pushing his wheelchair up mountains, down rocky gorges and along dusty trails in out-of-the-way places. He has been on virtually every hiking trail in the Bay Area, and last year he became the first wheelchair hiker to reach the summit of 14,246-foot White Mountain in the eastern Sierra, the third-tallest peak in California.
He does it, he says, because he loves nature and because the fruits of his labor are so rewarding. Now he is preparing for the most difficult unaided mountain climb anyone on a wheelchair has ever attempted.
Coomber originally chose Kilimanjaro because it is the tallest mountain in Africa and it has a hiking trail leading to the top. Aconcagua was recently added as a possibility because it is the highest mountain in the Americas and also has a relatively smooth trail. The choice of which one to climb will be made based on funding, sponsorships and whether he can find an outfitter willing to spend at least a week and possibly two weeks guiding him on the mountain.
“I figured about 15 years ago that as long as I could keep the chair moving in the right direction, I was going to keep pushing it,” Coomber said. “I feel better physically than any time in my life, quite honestly. There is always an excuse to stay indoors. I’m just not much of a giver-upper.”
I suspect Bob cringed at seeing he’d been on “virtually every” trail in the Bay Area — the path’s gotta be wide enough for his wheels, which rules out a bunch — though I’d hate to point out which ones he absolutely cannot do because that’d just make him want to prove me wrong.
Can’t help wonder: how long’s it going to be before somebody fronts the cash to send Bob to Kili or Aconcagua?
Here’s a bonus pic from Bob’s White Mountain hike. Note the Popeye forearms.