Fears are growing for a British woman reported missing while on a solo hiking trip through the Pyrenees – as a widespread search by authorities failed to find her.
Esther Dingley, 37, has been travelling around Europe with her partner Dan Colegate in their minivan since 2014.
They both left their jobs and embarked on what was supposed to be a year-long voyage around the continent after they were both diagnosed with depression and Mr Colgate survived a flesh eating virus.
But the extended the trip for several years and rented their flat in Durham while makin money with odd jobs on the road,
The couple, who have been together for 18 years, quit their jobs, let their Durham flat and bought a camper van to go travelling around Europe after Mr Colegate nearly died from a flesh-eating bacterial infection and both were diagnosed with depression
But Ms Dingley had left her boyfriend in Gascony, France last month and set out to complete the mountainous hiking adventure on her own.
The pair last spoke via WhatsApp on Sunday (November 22), when Ms Dingley sent a photo from the Pic de Sauvegarde mountain, at the French-Spanish border.
But now despite ‘extensive sweeps’ by helicopters and sniffer dogs of the countryside where she was last seen, there has been no sign of her since.
Esther Dingley, 37, has been reported missing while on a hiking trip on the Pyrenees. This is the last photo she sent to her partner from the Pic de Sauvegarde mountain, at the France-Spain border
The 37-year-old from Durham was on a month-long solo trip and was supposed to return on Wednesday
The couple both left their jobs and embarked on what was supposed to be a year-long voyage around the continent after they were both diagnosed with depression and Mr Colgate survived a flesh eating virus.
Mr Colegate said her disappearance has left him ‘broken and shattered’.
He told the BBC that his partner had been away for a month before she went missing and their last conversation was about ‘how excited we were to see each other as this was her last trip before driving back’.
It is believed Ms Dingley had started out on Saturday from Benasque, Spain and was planning to spend Sunday night at Refuge Venasque, France.
Writing about her climbing adventures on Facebook days before going missing, Miss Dingley described how she found herself ‘racing the weather’ during one hike and pushing her ‘comfort zone’ as she headed out alone in difficult conditions.
Her devastated partner shared the last picture she had sent him along with an emotional plea on Facebook: ‘I’m broken. Shattered to report that my beloved Esther, the person who taught me how to feel, is missing.
Esther Dingley and her partner Dan Colegate have been travelling around Europe in their camper van for the past six years
Ms Dingley had started on Saturday from Benasque, Spain and was planning to spend Sunday night at Refuge Venasque, France.
‘She has was last seen six days ago when she sent me this photo. Search and rescue teams have so far found no trace of her.
Snow has been falling at night in the area where Ms Dingley set off on the hike, and night temperatures can drop to minus 2C.
Climbing and hiking accidents in the region are common, especially on mountain paths where rocks can become easily dislodged.
In July 2017, a 31-year-old French woman lost her life in front of her partner after a rock she was clinging to for support came loose, sending her tumbling.
The local PGHM High Mountain police in Bagnères de Luchon released a statement saying they are ‘actively looking’ for Ms Dingley.
‘This hiker went to the mountains in Luchonnais Sunday, November 22, planned to return Wednesday, November 25.
‘The area envisaged for its hike extends from the port of La Gl èrere to the port of Venasque (French and Spanish slopes).
‘Anyone who has seen or crossed this hiker is invited to contact the PGHM of Bagn èresres de Luchon at 05.61.79.28.36.
Mr Colegate said his partner was away for a month before she went missing last Sunday
Mr Colegate shared an emotional post on Facebook saying he has been left ‘broken ‘and ‘shattered’
‘This message has the sole purpose of protecting human life.’
The pair have been travelling since 2014 along with their five dogs and have documented their trips through their blog ‘Esther and Dan’.
According to their Facebook page the couple started travelling after ‘a health scare motivated us to leave our jobs and start touring Europe by foot, bike & motorhome.’
They have lived in France, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Slovenia and Liechtenstein.
They spent summers in the altitudes of the Alps and Pyrenees, and winters in the warmer climes of Spain.
Mr Colegate said: ‘She always tried to keep in touch but sometimes on her hikes was out of contact for a couple of days.
Mr Colegate said their last conversation was about ‘how excited we were to see each other as this was her last trip before driving back’
‘This is not looking good.’
‘The only purpose of this post is to ask for prayers, thoughts, candles and whatever you have.
‘I’ve not been saying anything, but this wonderful person believes in the power of positive thought and right now I’ll take anything if it means that she can be found.
‘I need her back. I can’t face the alternative.
‘I’m heading back up searching now so I can’t reply to comments or messages. Sorry for the haste and inadequacy of these words.’
Ms Dingley was last seen at 16.00 GMT on Sunday, 22 November