Absolutely fabulous article. I too hiked the PCT last year and you very well describe much of my feelings toward PCT community. Both while hiking, and since, I have been very frustrated and even angry with that community. Certainly, fellow and former hikers meant well, but in all I think the PCT community did a great disservice to hikers. Fear-mongering was rampant: you needed a gps, crampons, etc. I was definitely present when so-called experts announced that one needed mountaineering experience for Fuller Ridge. Many people hiked around, or skipped sections of trail, without ever checking out conditions themselves.
I certainly have no problems with hikers bypassing sections of trail, depending on conditions, comfort level, their own goals, etc. My concern and my problems is that fear and misinformation was so common that parts of the trail were never even examined by many hikers. Furthermore, it is my opinion (despite my complete lack of desert, snow, and altitude experience) that every concern was blown way out of proportion.
I, as far as I know, was with the first group to traverse the Sierra in the 2010 nobo season, and the hiking was tough; really tough. We left Kennedy Meadows Mat 30th and didn't regularly see trail until after Belden, somewhere around July 4th. It was continuous, very slow, methodical map and compass work for 500+ miles. It was tough, exhausting, but by no means impossible. It has, in fact, been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and I feel that is is something many people opted out of because of constant fear-mongering.
My major concern is that people, with the air of authority, speculated on conditions and convinced many hikers not to hike certain areas- Fuller Ridge, Baden-Powell, the JMT, etc. There were many ill-advised flip-flops that avoided no snow at all. Everyone, it seemed, was willing to believe that certain areas were impossible, or just down-right dangerous. I don't think I ever once heard anyone recommend to cautiously explore an area and decide for yourself. To me that is the greatest lesson I learned on the PCT. You can listen and evaluate advise, but that is certainly not a substitute for your own first-hand examination of conditions. Check it out for yourself, and if you are out of your comfort zone, you can always turn around.
Now that I got that of my chest I can work on a "This what they said; This is what we saw" segment for AZDPCTKO