4 Wheel Bob

4 Wheel Bob

Wed, 03/18/2020 - 10:00pm - 11:00pm

Picture: Bob Coomber

Credit: Courtesy of Tritone Films 

This film tells the story of Bob Coomber, an intrepid adventurer who sets out to be the first wheelchair hiker to cross the 11,845 foot Kearsarge Pass in the Sierra Nevada. 

4 Wheel Bob airs Wednesday, March 18, 2020 at 10 p.m. on WXXI-TV.  Bob grew up in Piedmont, California, amid a family of avid backpackers. In his early twenties, he began training to become a police officer, but one day, while hiking in the Sierra he tripped and, as he says, ‘my leg exploded into a thousand pieces’. This was the beginning of a long struggle related to juvenile diabetes and subsequent osteoporosis, and he now must use a wheelchair to get around. After a period of severe depression, Bob recovered and adopted a philosophy of “no excuses,” leading to years of ambitious wheel chair hiking to get his health back.

Kearsarge Pass is a classic high approach into the Eastern Sierra, ten miles north of Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the Lower Forty-eight. The famously steep and prolonged trail to the Pass unfolds with Kings Canyon National Park providing the dramatic backdrop. For Bob in his wheelchair, this adventuring is fraught with danger. He must deal continually with altitude sickness and the threat of diabetic coma, not to mention possible fatal or crippling falls in the steep terrain. The path is often blocked with shattered granite, and Bob must turn his wheelchair backward in order to push uphill using only his arms. Going downhill has its own hazards; the trail is narrow, and his wheels often skid on the loose rock. We gain an intimate, foot-by-foot familiarity with Bob’s herculean effort and with some of the most perilous sections of the famous trail.

This episode is presented as part of MOVE TO INCLUDE, a partnership between WXXI and the Golisano Foundation designed to stimulate community dialogue about the perspectives of people with physical and intellectual disabilities. Its mission is to ultimately build a community that celebrates abilities.

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