A man is lucky to be alive after spending a cold, wet night on Mt Ruapehu with a dislocated knee.

Police said the 21-year-old set off for a day hike on the mountain yesterday and was rescued about 1pm today.

According to one of the rescue crews, he had fallen and slid down the eastern slopes above Tukino at some point yesterday afternoon. He came to a stop in soft snow which was just above a steep cliff.

Suffering from a knee injury and disoriented after his fall, he was forced to find shelter for the night on the mountain.

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Police were called about 5pm yesterday after he did not return from his hike.

A search base was set up at Turangi and four search teams, around 12 people, searched overnight until 4am.

The search resumed at 7am and the man was found at around 12.50pm today.

He was cold, had a dislocated knee and was flown to Taupo Hospital.

A RNZAF NH90 helicopter, the Greenlea Rescue Helicopter, Land Search and Rescue personnel, staff from Tukino Skifield and Ruapehu Alpine Lifts and local iwi, Tuwharetoa, all took part in the search.

Taupo Search and Rescue Coordinator Senior Constable Barry Shepherd said the search teams did a wonderful job.

"Conditions were less than ideal, with very little visibility, rain and snow, so all credit to the guys and girls at the sharp end.

"It's a timely reminder to other trampers and walkers in the area to make sure you are well prepared for the conditions, let people know where you are going and stick to your plans."