A woman has suffered a serious head injury after falling about 22 metres while abseiling at Mauao in Mount Maunganui.
Police and emergency services personnel were called to a climbing wall on the northern face of Mauao from about 7.30pm.
St John reported the woman was taken to Tauranga Hospital in a critical condition.
Mount Maunganui fire brigade station officer Roger Pickett said the woman was near the top of the abseiling wall when she fell and hit some rock, bounced and ended up on the other side of the track.
"Luckily she became hooked up in some trees, which potentially saved her from falling another 50m onto the base track below and suffering more serious injuries."
Pickett said the woman, believed to be aged in her mid-20s, was already in a stokes basket stretcher being assessed by St John Ambulance staff when he and his crew arrived at the scene.
Mount Maunganui lifeguards took the firefighters up to the fall site on four-wheel-drive vehicles, he said.
Kent Jarman, head of the Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service's call-out squad, was one of those who responded to the incident.
He said they were first alerted by St John Ambulance and helped take the paramedics, oxygen, a stretcher and other equipment up to the site.
"The young lady had fallen probably about four metres over the side of the track; she'd missed the track completely when she fell," Jarman said.
"She was very, very lucky not to have winded up going three-quarters of the way to the bottom."
He said he was not sure if her ropes had stopped her. She was sort of wedged among two small trees.
He said the outcome could have been worse had she not missed the track and gone down a sloping bank.
"A 20m fall could be fatal quite easily."
He said a person could fall "a hell of a lot less distance than that" and die.
Jarman said he climbed down the bank and assisted a paramedic with equipment and stabilising the woman. She was semi-conscious.
Jarman said they were obviously concerned about head injuries and he suspected the woman had some fractures to some of her limbs.
She was transferred onto a stretcher "in rather difficult circumstances" and a responding Fire and Emergency New Zealand crew was alerted to let them know they needed to come up to the site with their rope gear.
"We contemplated the helicopter but we figured by the time the helicopter came with their stretcher and that, it'd be almost dark. And it was very close to the cliff," Jarman said.
He said they decided it would be better to do a manual extraction.
Jarman said the woman was climbing with a friend, and the friend was there with her the whole time.
He said they appeared to have all the rope gear and the ropes were attached to pitons on the rock.
"I'm not sure what happened."
Jarman said he did not know exactly how far the woman fell, "but I would suspect quite a decent distance, judging by her injuries".
He said last night's response was a good team effort between the Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service, the police, Fire and Emergency New Zealand and St John Ambulance.
Firefighters assisted in carrying the injured woman down to a waiting ambulance.