I know that this topic has been discussed many times here before but after my experience last weekend I have to bring it up again. I know that there is no right answer to this question but I'm interested in hearing others opinions.
We stayed at Lakes of the Clouds last Friday and Saturday night (trip report coming soon). Over the weekend I had several occasions where I was talking to hikers who were seemingly less than prepared (some much more than others). Here are a couple of the more extreme examples.
Saturday evening at around 4:30 three guys carrying full backpacking gear came into the hut. They had hiked up from Crawford Notch (not sure where they camped the night before). At that point there were strong thunderstorms in the forecast during the next couple of hours - the radar map showed several storms currently over the eastern Vermont border. I was chatting with the guys and asked where they were headed. They said "over Washington and to Jefferson". Tonight? Yes. I asked if they knew that there were storms in the forecast. They didn't. I commented that I sure wouldn't want to be on the ridge during a thunderstorm. They asked "what do you do if you're on the ridge in a storm?" Hmmm. I just said that the general advice is to get off however you can - by a trail if there is one and down into the trees or scrub by some other means if there isn't. The conversation ended there and about a half hour later I saw them heading out from the hut toward Mt Washington. The storms thankfully never materialized. I assume that they were at least prepared for hiking in the dark. What would you have told them?
On Sunday morning the summit conditions on Mt Washington were 30F and 65MPH winds for a wind chill of 10. Forecast was for temps to reach the low to mid 40s with winds still above 50 all day. As we headed down the Jewell trail we met numerous people heading up in typical summer garb. Short, t-shirt, sneakers, small pack. We said hello to each group as we passed and a couple of times I just commented "hope you've got your warm layers with you - it's pretty chilly up there". Some asked how cold it was and I told them the forecast. None seemed very concerned (although some seemed pretty surprised by the temps). Finally when we were about a mile and a half from the parking lot at 12:15 we ran into a father and daughter (probably in her mid 20s) heading up. We said hello and she said "can you tell me if this trail goes to the hut". Not directly I said, and then gave her the series of connections to get there. I thought that perhaps they were staying at the hut that night. "Is the hut on the way to Mt Washington?" she asks. Not really, it's kind of on the other side. If you'd gone up the Ammo trail it would be on the way. "Oh, maybe we'll stop there afterward then". Dad then says (happily) "this is our first hike up Mt Washington today". Probably the way they decided to spend Father's Day together. I could have said so many things. Do you have a map? (Presumably not). Do you know how long this is going to take? Are you prepared to hike down in the dark? Do you know how cold and windy it is up there (not 70 degrees like down here)? I didn't say any of those things. Instead I said "enjoy your hike and be safe". I've wondered about them about a hundred times since then. I really hope that their Father's Day adventure ended well. What would you have done?