I woke up at the unreasonable hour of 4:30am so that I could make the Echo Lake trailhead by 7am. There was a thick layer of low lying clouds hovering over the divide, and most of the upper elevations of the Evans area were hidden by clouds.
The route follows the Chicago Lakes trail up to the higher of the two lakes. I took it easy for the first 5 miles, and reached the upper Chicago lake after 2 hours. Now the real fun started. I climbed a steep grassy slope (.6 mile, +1200 FT) out of the Chicago Lakes basin, and down a gentle 200 feet drop to Summit Lake.
The hike up the broken slope was steep, and the overcast morning had left all the rocks and grasses slippery. Having my poles with me really saved me on this stretch, the route would have been far more difficult without them. The clouds were still hanging around at this point, and it was quite windy and cold. I hung out in the wet air at Summit Lake for a few minutes and then headed up to the start of the Northeast Face route.
I found that the northeast route is actually not as steep as the slope that I first climbed to reach Summit Lake. The trail is well defined, and cairned periodically when you reach the talus section of the route.
It is an odd experience when after 7 miles you suddenly find yourself in a small parking lot at the top. The look on the car tourists face was quite interesting as I suddenly emerged from the trail below and walked into the parking lot.
For the final 300 feet, I joined the tourists and other climbers from different routes, and walked up the gentle trail to the rocky summit.
The final score for the ascent was 7.2 miles and +4,000 FT. After descending 1.2 miles back to Summit lake via the northeast face, my quads were pretty much jelly. I opted to take the Mt. Evans road back instead of retracing my route in order to avoid the steep drop down into the Chicago Lakes basin. The road was naturally longer then I had expected, but after 8.5 miles (I took a couple shortcuts) of steady walking I reached the Echo Lake trailhead at 2:30pm. A grand total of 17 miles in 7.5 hours.
A few weeks after the hike I read a notice from CFI (Colorado Fourteeners Initiative) that discourages use of the Northeast Face trail. Looking back, the trail is pretty braided once you hit the talus, and is beginning to braid on the lower grassy stretches. So heading over to Mt. Spalding from Summit Lake and then onto Evans would make a nice sporty alternative to the Northeast Face.