A climber is in a serious condition in hospital with head injuries after falling 300m down Mount Ruapehu.
He was with a small group of climbers on the Pinnacle Ridge near Whakapapa when he slipped on ice, falling into Grand Gully.
Whakapapa Ski Patrol went to the aid of the 25-year-old climber, who was airlifted from the central North Island mountain to Waikato Hospital by the Westpac rescue helicopter.
The man tonight remains in a critical condition under the care of Waikato Hospital's trauma team, led by Dr Grant Christey.
Westpac Rescue pilot Grant Bremner said rescue teams reached the man on foot then he was taken to Mt Ruapehu Medical Centre, where he lost consciousness.
"He fell right down to the bottom of the mountain," Bremner said.
He was stabilised before being airlifted to Waikato Hospital.
A major feature when viewed from Whakapapa skiﬁeld, the Grand Gully runs directly from the valley ﬂoor to the col south of Great Pinnacle.
"The gully is extremely steep and remote," Bremner said.
The gully narrows and climbs some short steeper steps towards the top of the mountain. Avalanches are a serious hazard in winter after snowfall.
"It's the most inhospitable part of the mountain, but it's a popular climbing area"
At the same time as the man was being rescued, a search-and-rescue team was sent to help a woman in the same climbing party, who was on the top of the Pinnacles and unable to continue.
Taupo's Greenlea rescue helicopter took a Ruapehu Alpine Rescue Organisation team to the area to help the 23-year-old.
She was retrieved unharmed and without further incident, police said.
The group were well-equipped and experienced, and the weather conditions was fine.