AN injured fell walker was recovering yesterday after a dramatic air rescue from a remote scene on top of snow-covered hills.

The woman, who has not been named, was plucked to safety by the Great North Air Ambulance crew after they battled freezing conditions to reach her at the bleak spot at Weardale, County Durham.

Road ambulance paramedics were also trying to get to the stranded woman, who had fallen and badly broken her leg at Stanhope.

But the crew were forced to stop the ambulance at the bottom of the valley and trudge up the isolated hillside.

The air ambulance took only 12 minutes to get to the woman from its base at Teesside Airport and managed to reach her before the road crew. It landed within 20 metres of her on the hillside.

The rescue happened on Sunday at about 3.15pm after the woman was fell walking with her partner. It is understood he managed to reach a nearby farm and raise the alarm.

A few minutes after being stretchered on to the air ambulance, she was being treated in the warmth of the University Hospital of North Durham.

Yesterday, air ambulance paramedic Jon Kerr said the woman had already started to suffer from the cold and had a suspected badly broken right leg.

"Exposure in those type of conditions is one of the dangerous things. People die very quickly when they're exposed to harsh weather," he said.

"Obviously speed is essential in this sort of situation, and she was shivering and cold when we found her.

"She was in quite good spirits, even though she was in a fair bit of pain with her leg."

The latest rescue is the air ambulance's 143rd mission since it was set up, initially on a temporary basis, at Teesside Airport last July.

The Darlington-based Great North Air Ambulance charity is hoping it will be a permanent fixture for years to come.

But the charity is in need of volunteers to help with fundraising and donations to meet its £1m annual running costs.

For more information about the Great North Air Ambulance, call (01325) 487263.