Now, technically speaking, a Mud Falcon is a beast known to climbers who scale “big walls”, the sheer granite slabs like El Capitán. See, up there, there’s nowhere to, you know, go, and in order to spare the pristine rock faces and climbers below, the ‘Mud Falcon’ takes glorious wing. Woe to he or she who dangles below when the Mud Falcon does not achieve proper escape velocity. What happened to me in Iceland recently wasn’t exactly the result of a Mud Falcon, but it might as well have been.
Until we arrived at Skógafloss (above), Iceland’s most iconic waterfall, the sky was a feisty, flinty cur, all drizzly rain and gravel blowing sideways, into the eye-socket. Then the clouds departed. Tourbuses disappeared. And there we stood, in awe of this thing.
It is damn impressive. At 180′ high or so, it really roars. Local lore has it that a Viking named Þrasi Þórólfsson buried a treasure behind the waterfall. Just try to get close to the thing, and you’ll see why it was a good hiding place. Without full foul-weather gear, you’re a soggy fool in seconds. But it’s better observed from a distance. When the sun comes out, as it did for us, a fat rainbow beams over the thing, absurdly bright and symmetrical and sometimes doubled. Seabirds wheel overhead, piercing the white noise. All is well.
Until you look up, that is. Maybe it’s the falls, the spectral eye candy, the sheer cliffs side by watery side. Or maybe it’s a bird that catches your eye, arcing across the white wall of water. One way or another, you’re rubbernecking—you can’t help it—burning memory card space on your digital camera with abandon.
Then the postcard peace was shattered. As I looked down to admire my latest Ansel Adams, one of those birds—maybe even the one seen here—thought to bestow a gift, a real shot to remember. As I goofily admired shots we’d just taken jumping in the air like idiots, it struck, an enormous glop of yellow-brown bird crap splashed squarely onto the camera’s viewscreen. And it wasn’t just a spot either. It was a good bit heftier, like this thing had been saving up for days. What the—? He nailed it. Screw the rainbow. Time to run. —Christian DeBenedetti