An injured fell walker was recovering today after a dramatic air rescue from isolated, 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 remote 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 Mine.

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

The air ambulance took just 12 minutes to get to the woman from its base at Teesside Airport and managed to reach her before the road crew. The aircraft 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 onto the air ambulance she was being treated in the warmth of the University Hospital of North Durham.

Yesterday, air ambulance paramedic Jon Kerr said she was already suffering from the cold and had a suspected badly broken right leg.

He said that without the air ambulance they may have had to get the fell rescue team in, which could have delayed her treatment by up to an hour.

"The exposure in those kind of conditions is one of the biggest things -- people die very quickly when they're exposed to harsh weather conditions," he said.

"Obviously speed is essential in that situation and she was shivering and cold when we found her.

"But 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 in July last year.

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 contact GNAA at (01325) 487263.