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Is The Mount Washington Observatory The Ultimate Zombie Fortress?

In 1934, a weather observer stationed at the peak of Mount Washington recorded a, then record, wind gust of 231 miles per hour. As a point of reference, that’s in the same neighborhood as an F5 tornado.

Even on hot summer day, conditions at the peak can drop below freezing in a matter of minutes – which is just one reason more than 135 people have died in the shadow of Mount Washington since 1859.

And yet, Mount Washington isn’t just Home of the World’s Worst Weather--as a sign at the summit famously boasts--it’s also home to a weather station, where a team of researchers are able to safely live year-round.

Which begs the question: would the Mount Washington Observatory be the perfect place to survive a zombie apocalypse?

Listen to this radio story to find out:

To find out, we got in touch with Max Brooks – author of World War Z, The Zombie Survival Guide, and The Harlem Hellfighters. He gave us an idea what to look when evaluating a possible zombie fort.

“A source of water. If you don’t have a source of water you’re dead in three days.”

Conveniently, water for the Observatory is drawn from a nearby well that taps into the Lakes of the Clouds Aquifer. So not only will survivors have a good source of potable water, they’ll also get to the take the occasional hot shower!

“Does it have the ability to dispose of your excrement?”

Good question. According to Bill Grenfell, Director of Museum Operations, all of the observatory’s waste is processed right on the mountain. It does take some resources however – after flowing downhill to a treatment plant, waste is collected and treated using biological means.  Some of the solids are set aside and dried, and eventually brought down to the valley for disposal. Bill says it takes a long time to accumulate that much waste though, so survivors should be able hold up a long time before having to make the trip.

Here are some other interesting factoids that make the Observatory sound like a pretty sweet place to hide from roving packs of brain-addicted zombies:

  • While electricity for the station is supplied by a mainline that runs alongside the Cog Railway, a row of enormous kerosene tanks provide fuel for the backup generator in case of an outage.  Meteorologist Ryan Knapp estimates that, if used conservatively, the generators could keep the OBS going for as long as a year.
  • While there is certainly enough room for dozens of people to camp out in restaurant portion of the Sherman Building, the Observatory has 17 beds for guests and staff.     
  • The staff sits down to a family-style meal every night – and the pantry is stocked with enough dried and frozen food to last up to about 3 months, without rationing. 
  • While there isn’t a cache of weapons, the Observatory maintains a handy stockpile of shovels, crowbars and ice picks – typically used for knocking off the sheets ofrime icethat develop on the peak during the winter – but these blunt instruments would also make great zombie-bashers.
  • A handful of webcamsplaced outside the observatory keep a constant eye on the summit – an essential tool for keeping watch during a zombie outbreak.
  • There’s a cat named Martythat lives at the summit, which in itself isn’t particularly useful, but could help boost morale for survivors still reeling from the overall collapse of society. 

After our initial assessment, it seemed like the Mount Washington Observatory might be the ultimate place to survive a zombie apocalypse. Unfortunately, Max Brooks says we’ve pretty much ruined it for everybody. 

“Simply by doing this story you’ve invalidated it. Because the most important aspect of a zombie fortress is anonymity. The biggest problem in a zombie outbreak is not zombies. It’s refugees. Because zombies are not a tenth as dangerous as desperate Homo sapiens. So you’re going to be dealing with a lot of hungry, sick, scared, very desperate people who have heard this report and know just how attractive the Mt. Washington Observatory is.”

Oops! Sorry guys. But don’t unpack your crampons just yet – NHPR environmental reporter (and avid outdoorsman) Sam Evans-Brown says there is a lesser-known hut located somewhere among the Presidential Range of the White Mountains that he says might be the perfect zombie hideout.  We’d tell you where it is...but wouldn’t that defeat the point?

Let us know what New Hampshire landmark you think would make a good zombie fort in the comments below, and don't forget to check out the CDC's guide to surviving a zombie outbreak!

Taylor Quimby is Supervising Senior Producer of the environmental podcast Outside/In, Producer/Reporter/Host of Patient Zero, and Senior Producer of the serialized true crime podcast Bear Brook.

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