The Greenlea Rescue Helicopter was dispatched by the National Park Police to Mt Ruapehu on Thursday 21 December, to assist with the search for a missing woman. The police were initially alerted by a third party whom the woman had contacted when she became disoriented.
Details of the woman’s whereabouts were initially sparse; she may have been near a river or a waterfall or a hut. Snowmelt meant there were a number of waterfalls in the area, so the rescue helicopter conducted an initial search of likely areas.
Fortunately, the woman found some mobile phone coverage and was able to pass her phones GPS location to the police. The Greenlea Rescue Helicopter then took a group of RARO Alpine Rescuers as close as weather conditions allowed to the woman’s location just on dark.
The woman was found around 1.30 am huddled in her sleeping bag perched right on the edge of a cliff at an elevation of just below 7000’, on the eastern side of the mountain in the Whangaehu River Gorge. She was taken to the nearby Whangaehu Alpine Hut for the night. Just after first light the Greenlea Rescue Helicopter once again assisted with the recovery of the injured woman and her rescuers.
It appeared at some point the woman slipped and fell on ice and snow losing consciousness in the process. She was unaware what had happened to her and where all the blood on her head and face had come from. She may also have fallen a second time in her dazed state.
She was taken to hospital with multiple serious injuries.