Bob Coomber cannot walk, but he sure can hike.
The disabled Livermore outdoorsman is preparing for the hike of his life – an ascent of 19,000-foot Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa or 22,841-foot Cerro Aconcagua in South America.
If he pulls it off, he will be the first person to climb either mountain in a wheelchair.
“I have no idea if it’s doable, but I would love the opportunity to just get there and start off,” Coomber said. “I have to do something to prove to myself that I haven’t reached the zenith of my life yet.”
The Americans with Disabilities Act was not designed for people like Coomber, a 53-year-old adventurer known throughout the Bay Area as “Four Wheel Bob.”
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.
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