The British partner of missing hiker Esther Dingley was searching for her alone in the Pyrenees last night as police mounted a huge search to find her five days after she disappeared.
Esther Dingley, 37, vanished while hiking alone from the Porte de la Glere to the Port de Venasque, along the border between France and Spain.
Despite being missing for five days, French and Spanish search teams mounted a last-ditch attempt to find the missing trekker.
The British partner of missing hiker Esther Dingley was searching for her alone in the Pyrenees last night as police mounted a huge search to find her five days after she disappeared. Dan Colegate and Esther Dingley are pictured above
Esther Dingley, 37, was hiking the Pyrenees mountains on the border between France and Spain in defiance of lockdown rules when she vanished last week
Dan Colegate, the British partner of missing hiker Esther Dingley, was searching for her alone in the Pyrenees last night
The 37-year-old had been travelling with her partner Dan Colegate on a six-year campervan tour of Europe but for the past month, she had opted to hike in the Pyrenees alone while he stayed put in a farmhouse in Gascony in France.
The pair, from Durham, last spoke on WhatsApp on November 22 when Esther sent a selfie from the Pic de Sauvegarde mountain on the border.
A day earlier, she posted a series of pictures on Instagram with the caption: ‘I’m in heaven….The snail is on the move again and loving it.’
On Saturday, Mr Colegate said on the couple’s Facebook page: ‘I’m broken. Shattered to report that my beloved Esther, the person who taught me how to feel, is missing. Search and rescue teams have so far found no trace of her.’
Miss Dingley had been travelling Europe with her partner Dan Calegate in a van for six years, when she left him at a farmhouse in France last month to go off on a solo adventure
Ms Dingley had started on Saturday from Benasque, Spain and was planning to spend Sunday night at Refuge Venasque, France
The 37-year-old from Durham was on a month-long solo trip and was supposed to return on Wednesday
French police sent a search team of sixteen people up the mountain on Monday along with national police experts.
‘Her partner is up looking for her too. However, he prefers to walk alone,’ said Pierre Gaillard of the PGMH mountain gendarmes in Luchon.
‘He has already retraced her route as it’s not a difficult path. Now he is in another area. He’s involved, he’s trying to understand and doesn’t want to stay down in the valley waiting.’
On his Facebook page, Mr Colegate’s father, Mick, said: ‘We’ve spoken son and you know that I will be on the first available flight when you come down from the mountains ..you don’t have to be strong and face this all alone…love you son.’
Mr Gaillard said his men held out little hope of finding Ms Dingley alive at this stage. Ms Dingley started walking from Benasque, Spain, on November 21. French police said all trace of her was lost at 4pm on Sunday, November 22. No more phone messages were received after then.
The paths she was taking were marked, well-indicated on maps and pretty well-frequented in normal times, French police said.
Several witnesses saw her on the Spanish side on Sunday and spoke to her.
There is an unmarked refuge just over the French border but police said there was no sign that it had been used.
Miss Dingley was a yoga enthusiast who had been a private trainer before giving up her career to travel around Europe
Spanish authorities were reportedly alerted on November 25 of her disappearance and alerted their French counterparts the following morning. They found her vehicle parked on the Spanish side of the border.
A Spanish Civil Guard spokesman said: ‘We are searching with a team of ten mountain rescuers and a helicopter. We have had situations in the past when people have found some refuge and survived situations like this.
‘This is a mixed area with some wooded areas and other areas with difficult mountainous zones. We do not think there is anything suspicious at this stage.’
Spanish police said Ms Dingley appeared to have breached restrictions on movement brought in by authorities to halt Covid-19 infections.
Spanish authorities have put out a missing persons alert for Ms Dingley.
José María Anton, a hotelier in Benasque, said: ‘All the hotels are closed here at the moment as the skiing has not started. I don’t know where this woman would stay. If she had intended to climb over the mountains it could be dangerous as there is snow and ice.’
Mr Colegate was expected to cross via the Vielha tunnel into Spain on Tuesday and may join the Civil Guard team searching for his partner.
A spokesman for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, said: ‘Our staff are supporting the family of a British woman reported missing in the Pyrenees.’