Four-Wheelin' to the Top

Backpacker's Wheelchair Hiker Wins Presidential Fitness Award

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

BACKPACKER’s map contributor Bob Coomber, better known as Four-Wheel Bob, has pounded paths throughout California in his specially-modified, all-terrain wheelchair, and in the process he’s become perhaps the most accomplished wheelchair hiker ever. He was the first to ascend the 14,246-foot White Mountain, a grueling fourteener in the mountains east of Bishop, California, on a wheelchair.

Now Coomber can add another accolade to his storied outdoor career: This week, President Bush will give Coomber the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports Community Leadership award. The award seeks to recognize those who improve the lives of individuals in the community by showcasing opportunities to participate in sports, physical activities, or fitness-related programs.

Coomber lost the use of his legs after an early-onset case of osteoporosis; he also suffers from full-blown Type 1 diabetes, which constantly saps his energy and makes his prowess all the more impressive. Every major summit is like climbing K2 for Coomber, but he’s devised an ingenious set of wheelies and other maneuvers to allow him to cross virtually any obstacle in his path. (Tom Mangan‘s incredible photo at left depicts Four-Wheel Bob just ten feet from the top of White Mountain).

Coomber proves that boundaries are nothing, and that you don’t need the use of your feet to become a damn good hiker. You can read more about Four-Wheel Bob and his quest to summit White Mountain in our 2006 profile, and you can check out his BACKPACKER trips right here.

Congrats, Four-Wheel Bob, and keep on rollin’.

— Ted Alvarez

Four-wheel Bob rolls to Presidential Award (

Image Credit: Tom Mangan/Two-Heel Drive