A FREAK storm approaching Iceland has caused former Sedbergh School boy Charlie Smith, 19, to end the epic trek he was leading across the island's barren, snowy wilderness.

Expedition leader Charlie and The Coldest Crossing team had hoped to complete the first midwinter, unsupported crossing of Iceland on an 18-day, 250-mile journey through "one of the most extreme environments on earth".

However, with a storm on the way and two team members soaked in rain, the decision was taken to retrieve the young team and their film crew, who were airlifted to the safety of Icelandic capital city Reykjavik.

An update posted on The Coldest Crossing website stated: "Two team members became soaked in rain through their clothing and contacted Icelandic Search and Rescue (ICESAR) for advice. ICESAR suggested the team make it to a back country hut but the expedition was not within a day's time of the hut.

"ICESAR was conducting training missions in the area north-east of Mýrdalsjökull and incorporated the pickup into their exercise. ICESAR noted rescue services would not be able to reach the team if the situation got worse and the decision was made to retrieve the three team members (Charlie Smith, Stefan Rijnbeek and Archie Wilson) and their two film crew counterparts (Taylor Rees and Renan Ozturk) for the safety of the expedition members and rescue crews."

Trek leader and "Old Sedberghian" Charlie Smith has an impressive track record, having previously become the youngest person to cross Iceland north to south unsupported in summer, and been chosen to represent the UK on the Fjallraven Polar expedition in 2015. He is studying industrial design at Brunel University, and was awarded gold, silver and bronze Duke of Edinburgh Awards.

In a statement, the team's press spokesman, Casey Berner, said: "Iceland’s weather has been exceptionally difficult in December and The Coldest Crossing thanks all those in Iceland and around the globe who have supported their journey.

"While The Coldest Crossing may not be a 'first' or 'longest' or anything to break the record books, the team does not admit defeat because they did accomplish what they set out to do, inspire young people to explore the outdoors."

On their journey, the team faced temperatures below 25C and hauled home-made 'pulk' sleds weighing more than 40kg each (including a frozen Christmas turkey) as they trekked across mountainous, snow-covered terrain in a meagre five hours of dusk each day.

The expedition faced several setbacks, with the team having to shelter from Storm Desmond on December 7, and a team member suffering from frostbite being rescued a week later.