Northern Echo reporter Chris Brayshay needed true grit as he faced a nightmare journey home in the blizzards battering Teesside on Thurdsay.

After clocking off for the eveining, he joined the thousands of drivers struggling home. This is what happened.

FEAR, panic and an overwhelming feeling of helplessness threatened to overwhelm me as I felt the wheels of my Volvo lose grip on the packed snow. I was no longer in control.

The weather forecast had said the outside temperature would be hovering just below freezing.

But by the time I left the Middlesbrough office in Borough Road to head for home on Thursday evening, a tearing wind meant it felt much, much colder.

The familiar surroundings that I took for granted on my way home had become an alien landscape, covered in snow and sheet ice.

The wind was ferocious, rocking my car on its springs as it slammed across Teesside, swirling the snow and reducing visibility to just a few feet.

Then the tyres began to lose grip.

I was going nowhere. First gear achieved nothing. Second gear, the same. A few minutes later and it was difficult not to feel trapped.

Incredibly, I could still see a few hardy souls packing their car with groceries from Sainsbury's. Some people hadn't bothered to heed the police warnings only to travel if absolutely necessary.

The trouble had been getting caught in a tailback on the steep spur road climbing up to the gridlocked A66.

I wasn't the only one feeling desperate.

The car in front skidded crazily on the snow and stalled, causing me to also stall. A boy racer, with no fear and little brain, squeezed past from behind me, causing an oncoming car to come sliding and shuddering to a stop.

In front, the driver of the car which skidded had re-started his engine, and the car lurched wildly this way and that as he fought to get a grip on the untreated road and continue his climb to the summit. Conquering Everest in slippers would have been easier.

Giving it up as a bad job, the driver straightened his car up and stopped.

I attempted to carefully manoeuvre past him, using third gear to avoid the wheels spinning - only to stall again. This time I was stuck. I reversed a couple of feet before trying to drive forward over a thin cover of crumbly snow on compacted ice.

My mind was totally focused on getting up some momentum, but the car had other thoughts. It sat stubbornly on the slope, going nowhere; a traffic jam building up behind me. I felt the world and his wife were witnesses to my misery. Would I have to call someone on my mobile to help? How long would they take to get here?

Then, salvation. The unknown hero who had given up his fight got out of his car to give me a push.

Third gear again and, with the worrying smell of my overworked clutch in my nostrils, my tyres finally bit into the snow. A slight touch on the accelerator and I was free and climbing.

I murmured a prayer of thanks and chuckled like a kid let out of school for the holidays - and narrowly missed clipping a bridge parapet as I slithered to a stop at a junction I nearly failed to notice.

Before me lay more than two more gruelling hours of stop-go-slither, bumper-to- bumper driving, before I finally reached home and brought to an end my worst driving experience in the 26 years I have held a licence.

Trucker tells of 18-hour nightmare trapped on M11

NORTH-EAST lorry driver Andrew Hamilton spent almost 18 hours stranded on the M11 in Cambridgeshire - one of hundreds of people trapped in their vehicles due to the snow and ice.

The 39-year-old, who works for Prestons of Potto, in North Yorkshire, got stuck on the motorway at 5pm on Thursday and finally got moving at 10.30am yesterday.

He told The Northern Echo yesterday that he was left exhausted as his wagon inched southwards, carrying a load of soft drinks bound for London.

"Initially, we tried to bypass the A1 but ended up getting stuck completely," he said.

"It was okay being a lorry driver because we have got everything we need, including a bed in the back, but people in cars around me would have had absolutely nothing."

The father-of-two, from Ingleby Barwick, Stockton, Teesside, became stranded at Ducksford, and struggled to stay awake as the night wore on.

"At 1.30am I had been on the road for 18 hours. I asked the police if I could pull on to the hard shoulder to sleep. They said that it was illegal.

"I knew it was dangerous to carry on driving and eventually pulled onto the hard shoulder anyway. Other drivers followed me."

Mr Hamilton woke up at 6.45am yesterday and saw several car drivers he recognised from the night before still stranded in the same place.

"Car drivers kept themselves to themselves, but in the morning people were getting a bit more stroppy.

"I gave one woman coffee and a banana. It sounds weird, but it was just some food and she was starving."

Police finally helped him to reverse his wagon to an exit and he was able to drive off, though he failed to reach his destination.

"The M11 was still closed so I dropped my load at our depot down there and am on my way back with a load of bricks.

"For me, it was not too bad a night, but I really felt for the people stuck in cars."