From trash and cardboard signs to underwear, unwelcome things are being left behind on Colorado's tall peaks. 

Heading up to the top of the world, conquering the altitude, and surviving the elements is an amazing feat, and people from far and wide head to Colorado to experience it. More and more visitors, however, are leading to a less-talked-about problem: trash.

It's sort of an unwritten code that if you're going to summit a 14er, you're going to want to take some pictures with a cardboard sign documenting the altitude and occasion, to post on social media. Unfortunately, it seems more and more of these signs are not being taken back down the mountain, and the high peaks are filling up with discarded signs, food trash, clothing—including dirty underwear—and a lot of feces, both human and canine. Sometimes, people find appliances and other discarded items that have no business being up on the top of a mountain.

Zachary Thomas posted about the problem recently on the 14ers.com Facebook page asking that people try and educate others about the issue, not shame them.

cardboard signs

"Took down some more trash last night. I know I'm preaching to the choir here.... but please pack these out. …Please don't reach out and shame these people. that doesn't help. Assume positive intent, educate, raise awareness," said Thomas on Facebook. 

Many other folks who post on the Facebook page have shared similar photos and sentiment about people leaving trash being on the summits. 

trash cardboard signs
Courtesy of Justin Walker (Facebook)

The problem is not new; the number of people on the tall peaks continues to increase The Facebook page has posts dating back several years addressing the problem. Though, most folks who summit and make their way to the 14ers respect the land and the Leave No Trace Principles, there are many who do not. Leave No Trace is a philosophy and widespread effort to protect the natural lands of the country that is honored and practiced by Colorado Parks & Wildlife. The Leave No Trace Organization was incorporated in 1994 and has worked since then to educate hikers and protect and preserve the wildlands all over the nation.

The seven principles of Leave No Trace are intended to guide and educate folks about how to leave the minimum impact when visiting the outdoors:

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Leaving trash, waste, and other debris behind on the mountains has a long-lasting impact on the environment. It disturbs the habitat of the wildlife and can introduce disease and other harmful elements to both the flora and fauna. This is unacceptable to all who love Colorado, and it is asked that people please stop leaving things behind and take care to preserve the natural beauty of our wonderful state. It is recommended that visitors take down at least one piece of trash that they find left in the peaks every little bit helps. 

As far as using the restroom, it happens but that does not mean that waste needs to be left up in the elements. Packing it out needs to be a common practice. Learn more about the right way to handle this issue right here.

Have you seen the litter and trash that's being left behind on Colorado’s 14ers? What ideas do you have to get people to stop trashing these natural treasures of our state? Sound off in the comments.