A snowboarder missing on the North Island's highest peak survived a dramatic cliff plunge before he was rescued from certain death in the cold.

The Ruapehu Alpine Rescue Organisation said a search was mounted last night in snowy, pitch dark conditions for a young man missing on Mt Ruapehu.

Police said the alarm was raised around 4.10pm when friends of the man, in his 20s, became separated from him on the mountain.

Searchers found the man's snowboard and keys near Whakapapanui Stream along with footprints leading downstream.

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Teams scoured the area, walking both directions of the streams for hours before eventually finding the missing man cold but alive around 11pm.

A police spokeswoman said he had plunged off a cliff into an area known as Skippers Canyon. He had managed to survive the fall before facing a bitterly cold night in the open in deteriorating conditions.

The search party, made up of Whakapapa and Turoa ski patrol teams and staff from Hillary Outdoors, found the missing man who was exhausted, freezing cold and saturated with snow falling around him.

A Facebook post described search conditions as terrible.

It said a combination of excellent tracking and intelligent decision-making led searchers to the man and saved his life.

Sunday night @ Mt Ruapehu. A good team effort with a good outcome in what looks like wet and trying conditions. Well done team RARO. Pete Zimmer

Posted by LandSAR New Zealand on Sunday, 17 September 2017

A police spokesman said the man was walked out around midnight and taken to Taupo Hospital suffering from possible hypothermia.

His jubilant rescuers celebrated the successful operation giving high fives to each other in the carpark base after the man was treated in the waiting St John Ambulance.

A spokeswoman for Taupo Hospital said a man was checked over before being discharged at 4am on Monday.