The sun was shining in Utrecht when my friend Rini and I set off for England in a white Ford Capri, in March 1979. We loved classic cars and were going on a tour of used car dealerships in search of a vintage Jaguar. Aged 19 and 20, we were full of the spirit of adventure.
It was so mild when we arrived in Kent that occasionally we would stop to sunbathe on the car bonnet. We had no luck finding a Jag in the south-east so decided to head farther north. We didn’t check the forecast on our way to a dealership in Cumbria.
As we drove, the weather got colder and wilder. Snow was falling as we reached the Yorkshire Dales. Unperturbed, we drove over the moors in remote Swaledale. A tumbling white mass of wind and snow began battering the car along the road. We struggled on until the storm became so heavy we couldn’t see where we were going; the car barely moved over flurries of fresh snow.
With no chance of going anywhere, we waited for the storm to pass. It was bitterly cold. With every exhale, the vapour in our breath froze in a cloud of ice. Our summer sleeping bags offered little protection, nor did our thin jackets and jeans. All night, the storm raged, burying the car deeper and deeper. The cold slowed our senses, until it was all we could feel.
The next morning, the car was buried in snow. Everything was dark. Panic set in. Staying in the car would kill us. We had to get out – and fast. We tried the doors but they would not budge; the weight of the snow was too great. With great difficulty, we managed to roll down the windows and squeeze through the gap. Outside, we were met with an onslaught of gale-force winds and horizontal snow. With each step, we were knee-deep. Our minds fogged and our bodies numbed. My hair froze, and icicles formed on my eyebrows.
We tried to find a farm we’d passed on the road, but it was hopeless. The whiteout obscured everything; the sky and road were indistinguishable. We clung to each other, fearful we’d become separated. Rini…