Given the published information, it seems entirely plausible that they've been in the backcountry before the forecast became concerning.
Employers and family members said the two set out a week ago on a backpacking trip in Rocky Mountain National Park
Actually, this article says they were stranded up there for 48 hours, meaning they started out on Wed:http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_24088636/floods-hamper-rescue-efforts-hikers-stranded-longs-peak
My day job is airline pilot. As with mountaineering and other outdoor activities, the aviation community abhors baseless speculation. Every time there is an accident or incident, it seems every idiot who has ever seen an airplane or played Microsoft Flight Simulator throws in their unwanted $.02 to anybody that will listen, including all too often the ignorant media.
However, even within the professional pilot ranks speculation does occur and is discussed as information develops. Often times tangential topics develop, which often lead to other lessons learned. There are always those that shriek "We must wait for the NTSB before discussing anything!", and to some extent they are probably right. But there are times when an accident cause is so obviously rooted in negligence, incompetence, or recklessness that it quickly becomes obvious some major screw ups happened. And quite frankly, I don't have a problem discussing that within our ranks.
I am very inexperienced among many of you when it comes to mountaineering. But I have been climbing, hiking, and playing on these Colorado mountains for most of my life. Over 20 years ago I still remember being caught in an unforecast winter storm at high altitude as a young kid with my Dad (an experienced mountaineer and member of Alpine Rescue). I don't even remember which 14er we were climbing, but we were very close to summiting and had to bail out and very quickly get back down. Back in those days we had also been stuck on some pretty scary lightning storms in Moab and the Grand Canyon. Stuff that has left a permanent respect for weather in me as a pilot and outdoor enthusiast.
That being said, with the accuracy of weather forecasts we have these days and the instant access we have to it (no more having to read it in the paper or rely on the previous night's TV news forecast), I find the prospect of heading up Long's Peak on Wed morning extremely foolish and possibly even reckless for two out of staters with 30F sleeping bags and fall camping equipment. No doubt there are some of you that could manage to do this safely and with appropriate equipment. I know I couldn't, and clearly these young women couldn't either.
In my circles, if we had a private pilot from out of state flying around these mountains with that weather forecast using inappropriate equipment, there would be absolutely ZERO acceptance for that kind of behavior. The primary reason for this is as a community we don't want other inexperienced and impressionable pilots thinking such behavior is ever acceptable. I admit to speculating with the above statements, but at this point is it really "baseless"?