Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Feliz año nuevo chicos!

Happy New Year everybody!

I rang it in on the flanks of Cerro Tronador (Spanish for "Thunderer", and it looks as badass as its name...sadly the clouds didn't part for me to take photos of it this time) in a hike-in mountain hut full of fun people where the booze flowed and the music played until the wee hours of morning.

Rather than describe in words, here is the story in photos. And some words, but mostly photos. We like photos, right?

Part I: The miserable, miserable (but beautiful) hike

Anneke and I hiked four hours in the driving rain up the side of Cerro Tronador, climbing up through dripping forest with occasional cloud breaks that afforded us some jaw-drapping views. Within the first half hour, we were soaked to the bone, our water-resistant ski gear not up to the deluge. 

It got colder and colder as we hiked, but we were determined. We had a party to go to. Photo: Anneke on the trail as water pours down the volcanic rock.
We did have some pretty sweet views through occasional breaks in the sky (the breaks were never above us, sadly).
Castaño Overa Glacier on Tronador as viewed from the trail.

Anneke slogging though slush as we approached (finally!!) the refugio, rainbow in the background signalling better times ahead.

The refugio! Wait, no, false alarm. A building, but not the refugio.

The refugio! We decided midway up to stay inside, not in tents, because we were so cold and it was raining so hard and staying inside a warm, dry refugio after all that seemed (and was) infinitely nicer.
(Photo taken the next morning as the drunken revelers departed)

Part II: Safe and warm inside Refugio Otto Meiling

Due to our late start, we were the last ones to arrive at the refugio. We were greeted by a hut full of friendly folks who gave us a warm round of applause when we walked in, dripping and shivering. Drinks were quickly poured.

First order of business (after changing into dry clothes): open the wine Anneke hauled up.

Next order of business: cook dinner.

Table neighbor enjoying a book and some mate (in case you doubted we were in Argentina)
One of many cool mosaic lamps decorating the refugio

Part III: We came to party

We killed the five hours between our arrival and midnight by...drinking. Everything. It was new year's eve, after all...

Anneke gleefully pops the cork off of the semi-expensive (expensive is always a relative term when it comes to grape-derived beverages in this part of the world, God Bless the South!) champagne I hauled up the mountain.

¡Diez! Nueve! Ocho! Siete! Seis! Cinco! Cuatro! Tres! Dos! Uno!  ¡¡Feliz año!!

And then the party started for real. First song of the night: Final Countdown. Then: Carrie. Why? Because the refugieros love me (nobody forgot my name that night).

We danced in our flip flops until 4am. You'd think we hadn't just hiked up a volcano. It was an awesome night. (some of the dancing shots by Anneke)

Part IV: January 1, 2014!

Revelers sleeping off the hangovers the next morning. Incredibly, I did not have one. I may have drank like a fish, but I also drank a lot of water and danced all of it off. My sleeping bag is the red one at the bottom, next to the snugglers. Anneke managed to get a photo of me sleep-drooling in my sleeping bag, but I'm saving myself the embarassment here.

Breakfast in the refugio, watching the snow fall and working up the courage to leave.

Anneke was the first brave soul to leave the refugio in the morning.
But it was fine,and fun. The snow was dry and perfect. Me, backpack on, making a total fail of a snowangel. Photo by Anneke.

The snow was, in fact, so perfect that we had to stop and make a little snowman (Australian Anneke's first!!). Harder than we thought it would be, the snow was too dry to use my normal roll-the-ball expert snowman-building technique. Photo by Anneke.

We hiked down as a big group, I used all my Spanish words. Photo by Anneke.

In good spirits despite the rain and hangovers.

Happy new year!!

Epilogue: Some reflections

This new year marked quite a milestone in the life of this chica: the first new year in quite some time where instead of thinking, "good riddance old year, pleasegod let this new one be better," I rang in 2014 in the coolest possible way, all while thinking, "hotdamn, 2013 rocked!! here's to another one like it!"

2010 was the year I struggled mightily with a hopeless experiment, came down with a bad case of pneumonia, and ended a six-year relationship after years of friendship and fighting.

2011 started off hopefully with an exciting new romance and a new direction in my work, but crashed and burned hard with three consecutive cancer scares, surgeries, and the beginning of my battle with major depression.

2012 was an exhausting roller coaster in which I got engaged, got more bad cancer news, got left by my fiancé and, my heart badly and bitterly broken, I sank into the deepest emotional hole I've ever visited, ending up in a hospital after depression had led me to so give up on life that I stopped eating and drinking; it slowly got better from there as my PhD thesis project started to come together and I deepened relationships with family and old and new friends, but it continued to be an emotional battle.

2013 got off to a rough start with another broken heart, but quickly got AWESOME as I fought off the remnants of the mental and physical health problems I had suffered under the previous year, spent a lot of time working on my favorite desert island in the Pacific, wrapped up my PhD research and wrote my thesis, and then, in an incredible burst of everything going right, got a call from my doctor saying "all clear!" from the latest round of biopsies the night before I successfully defended my PhD dissertation in front of a room stuffed with dear friends and my family. August 16th, 2013, the day I became Dr. Frantz, was the best day of my life. And it kept getting better from there as I drove up the Pacific Coast from L.A. to my parents' house in Oregon, put the finishing touches on my dissertation, then flew to Santiago on a $5 air miles ticket to begin this life-changing and grand adventure.

So, to any of my friends out there who suffered through a rough 2013, I lift my glass to you and hope that 2014 is the year that Everything Gets Better. I know that can ring empty when you are sitting in an emotional well in the emotional dark. To you, amigos, I hope you reach out, I'm only an email away and you have my empathy and love. As Allie over at Hyperbole and a Half so beautifully put it, them's some dead fish, and it sucks. Hang in there.

Proof that life gets better!

And to those of you who had a baller 2013, WOOO!! Keep on rocking, rockstars!

To everyone: wishing you joy, random acts of kindness that make you smile, rain in the desert (but get the hell out before the flash flood, k?), and sunny powder days.

With love,


  1. I am so glad 2013 rocked for you and that 2014 has started off well! Hugs from the North America ;)

    1. Thanks Rowan! Wishing you a rockin' 2014, too. :-)