A man had to be winched off the side of Mt Ngauruhoe after he was "skittled by a tumbling rock" yesterday.

The man was rescued by the crew of the Greenlea Rescue Helicopter after the rock, described as a "widow maker", by rescue helicopter crew, bowled him over.

He was knocked off his feet and thrown about 50m "head over heels" down a sleep slope.

The man was flown to Rotorua Hospital.

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Mt Ngauruhoe is the volcanic cone of Mt Tongariro, and is one of New Zealand's most active volcanoes.

It is 2287m high and last erupted in 1975.

The cone fell under international spotlight when it featured as Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings films.