A woman survived a freezing night 1500m up Mt Ngauruhoe in a T-shirt and yoga pants after she became separated from her group and climbed the wrong mountain.

Police said 19-year-old Malaysian, a Waikato University student, was hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing yesterday when she went ahead of the group and became lost.

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The woman called police about 5pm yesterday cold, hungry and dressed in clothes suitable only for a day outing. A 111 emergency operator had trouble understanding the distressed woman and search and rescue teams were dropped on Mt Tongariro -- kilometres north of the woman's actual location.

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The Greenlea rescue helicopter rescues lost student. Photo / supplied

The woman spent the night amongst rocks and snow and did not move from her location as Search and Rescue and Police used night vision goggles to search Tongariro. It was Sunday morning before rescuers realised the woman was actually on Ngauruhoe. Senior Constable Barry Shepherd was part of the rescue team which found the woman at 8.30am today. "She was halfway down east side [of Ngauruhoe] going the wrong way," Mr Shepherd said.

He said the woman "is obviously quite resilient" as the temperature dropped to one degree Celsius overnight. "She was wearing a T-shirt, hoodie and yoga pants. We were surprised she was in such good condition today."

She was airlifted by the Greenlea Rescue Helicopter and taken to Whakapapa Village before continuing to Taupo Hospital. Mr Shepherd believed the woman had a sprained ankle but was not suffering hypothermia.

The woman's group "lost sight of her at the staircase leading out of Mangatepopo valley crater," Mr Shepherd said.

"She went right to the summit and over the top and down the other side."

"We responded with the rescue helicopter just before dark and did a search of all tracks with night vision goggles, then put a search team on summit of Tongariro. The police call-taker at Communications couldn't determine where she was."

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"She and her friends speak good English - but she was seriously upset. It was a challenge for the call-taker to reach her."

The woman had been spotted by another tramping party as she climbed Ngauruhoe, who told the Mangatepopo Hut ranger who finally alerted rescuers to the woman's location.