British Hiker Esther Dingley Goes Lacking within the Pyrenees
A British woman who has been documenting her travels through Europe with her partner over the past six years on a popular blog has disappeared while hiking alone in the Pyrenees, authorities said.
Search parties were looking for Esther Dingley, 37, who was last seen on November 22nd in the mountains of Luchonnais, an area in southwest France near the border with Spain, and who wanted to return three days later.
French authorities said Tuesday they were increasingly pessimistic about the chances of finding Ms. Dingley on the French side of the border.
“We have already monitored the zone so often that I don’t really know where else to look,” said Pierre Gaillard, the French mountain range’s deputy commander who led the search. He said the possibility of snow on Tuesday could force them to stop the search.
“We now have doubts that she even came to France,” said Mr Gaillard. “There is the same confusion on the Spanish side.”
At the time of Ms. Dingley’s disappearance, she had been on a month-long solo hike while her partner, Dan Colegate, stayed on a farm in Gascony, France, according to the BBC.
The couple, who have been together for 18 years after meeting at Oxford University, began their long-term hike and explorer journey in 2014 after Mr Colegate experienced medical complications following surgery. That experience, they said, pushed them to cancel their wedding, abandon their successful career, and find out what made them happy. They soon rented out their home, sold their car, and bought a motor home they called “Homer”.
Mr. Colegate declined to comment on Monday but said in a statement over the weekend that Ms. Dingley’s disappearance “broke” him.
“I didn’t say anything, but this wonderful person believes in the power of positive thinking and now I’ll take anything if it means she can be found,” he said. “I need her back. I cannot face the alternative. “
In a post on the couple’s shared Facebook page Tuesday night, Mr Colegate said authorities may be looking into explanations other than an accident. He said the investigation into a missing person had started in Spain and that a special judicial unit in France had opened an investigation.
“This means they will be looking at options other than a mountain accident,” Colegate said.
Mr Colegate said searchers would likely have found Ms. Dingley’s body had it fallen off one of the trails.
“While this is a terrifying development in many ways, I am trying to focus on the fact that the door is left open for Esther to come home,” he said. “She was so happy and cheerful the last time we spoke, I’d do anything to see her face and hold her now.”
Ms. Dingley was last seen on the Pic de Sauvegarde on November 22nd, according to the BBC. She ran out of the Spanish city of Benasque the day before and planned to stay in a hut in France on Sunday evening, Colegate said.
Ms. Dingley was last seen in black and pink mountain clothing, as the Spanish civil guard announced.
Mr Colegate told the BBC on Sunday that Ms. Dingley has been on solo treks before: “She has always tried to keep in touch, but sometimes she has been out of touch for a few days on her hikes,” he said. “This does not look good.”
In a post on the couple’s blog, Ms. Dingley wrote about how the last six years of travel had changed her: “I’ve found that I enjoy doing things that I never dreamed I would be able to because I can was afraid. ”She said. “Slowly, one onion layer at a time, I let go of my fears and enjoy challenging myself and pushing my limits, but in a sustainable and joyful way.”
Elian Peltier and Neil Vigdor contributed to the coverage.