Here's what Andrea Dinsmore said on the PCT-L. Words from a long time Trail Angel who has watched for years what can happen to late-season PCT hikers:
I believe educating the PCT hikers on what they are really going to get
into up here, not what they hear from friends that came through on a low
snow year. Rose colored glasses don't work in the wilderness. The weather
may change from 60 to 25 and a 3' dump of snow within a few days up here.
After looking at 11 yrs of dealing with hikers between Stevens Pass and
Stehekin it is good hiking weather, warm temps, fresh berries to eat up the
trail and the rivers are low if you hit the [Canada] border by the 15th of Sept.
That's about August 15th or so at Cascade Locks. Some years like this one
and 4 other years I can remember the trail was all but impassible by Sept
25th at Snoqualmie.
Here's the problem. As much as I like Andrea, she as much as told us that if we went north out of Stevens that we would die. This was mid August in '11. To say this was highly alarmist is an understatement. Was there some snow, sure. But having walked hundreds of miles in snow it was no big deal. Her information was also flat out wrong. She said that nobody had been able to make it through yet we had talked with Scott Williamson a week earlier who along with the four NoBo hikers ahead of us had successful made it through. Even when with the fact that Scott made it through, she got a bit upset at us for "not listening to her." Hmm, who to listen to..... A 13 time thru hiker or someone who has never hiked the whole section.
Now having said that, I think most of the issue this year with judgement was caused by folks having a cake walk through the Sierra so they had no clue what hiking in snow means. This same thing happened in '12 where folks flew through the Sierra and hit the PNW early season. They declared that the snow was so bad but it is only due to their lack experience earlier in the hike that caused them to think conditions were so bad. In reality I compared pictures vs. later in the season in '11 and it wasn't that bad. This can all be summed up as experience. And experience would say that walking in feet of fresh snow is exhausting and that waiting a few days would make it easier. But even more important, experience is knowing when to not proceed.