EIGHT people including a 12-year-old boy spent the night stranded on the fells in high winds and freezing conditions after their 4x4s got stuck in a snowstorm.

The off-roading enthusiasts had been driving on green lanes high in the North Pennines between Langdon Beck, in Upper Teesdale, and Alston on Saturday when they got stuck in snow.

The four vehicles became separated and those from the front two vehicles had to walk a mile in blizzard conditions to join the rest of the party, who were all from the Newcastle area.

Unable to get a mobile phone signal until morning, they spent the night sheltering in two of the vehicles before they managed to alert the emergency services yesterday morning.

Durham police attended and were able to follow the tracks of a snow plough which was trying to clear the road to find the group.

Eight volunteers from Teesdale and Weardale Search and Mountain Rescue Team were also deployed and the team’s medics were able to assess the health of the men, one of whom had an existing medical condition, and help transport them to Barnard Castle and safety.

Team leader Steve Owers said: “First we wanted to get the child and guy with a medical condition checked over and to safety, along with the rest of the group.

“They were all cold and wet but fine, it was probably frightening too.

“I think they were all relieved to get off the hills.

“We really urge people going out onto the hills to get a mountain weather forecast, and respond to what it is telling you by considering whether to go out and how to prepare.

“These guys had looked at the forecast. But conditions in Alston, which is a town, can be wet and wintry then you go higher in the North Pennines, there were at about 700m, and more exposed, the temperature drops dramatically, rain potentially turns to snow and it because very difficult to deal with.”

Mr Owers said it is important to remember phone signal is limited up on the fells and getting help can be a challenge, so anyone venturing out should let someone know their plans, and have warm clothes, water and food in the boot in case they become stranded.

He recommended using the Mountain Weather Information Service or Met Office for information about the weather.