A British woman who has spent six years travelling across Europe has gone missing while on a solo hiking tour in the French Pyrenees.
Esther Dingley, 37, had been travelling with her partner, Dan Colegate, since 2014, with the couple’s travel adventures well-documented in a blog and in the national press. She had embarked on a month-long solo trip when she went missing.
Dingley, originally from Durham, had taken their van on the lone adventure, which was due to come to an end on Wednesday, while her partner stayed in Gascony, France.
An urgent search is now under way after Dingley last spoke to Colegate via WhatsApp last Sunday when she was atop Pic de Sauvegarde on the French-Spanish border. According to him, they discussed how excited they were to see each other as she was on her last trip before driving back.
The previous day, Dingley walked from Benasque, Spain and planned to spend Sunday night at Refuge Vénasque in France. She was last seen at about 4pm last Saturday, with Colegate saying there had been no sign of her since.
The Peloton de Gendarmerie de Haute Montagne confirmed it was searching for Dingley.
In a Facebook post on Saturday, Colegate shared the last picture Dingley sent him before she vanished.
“The only purpose of this post is to ask for prayers, thoughts, candles and whatever you have,” he wrote. “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.”
The couple, who have been together for 18 years, hit the road in 2014 with their five dogs after Colegate almost died of an infection following surgery.
They regularly posted about their adventures on their blog, Esther and Dan, and seven days ago they were featured in a BBC article discussing how they swapped their careers and a permanent home for motoring through the mountains, valleys and coastlines of Europe.
Colegate said he had joined French police teams using helicopters and dogs in the search for Dingley. “She always tried to keep in touch but sometimes on her hikes was out of contact for a couple of days,” he said. “This is not looking good.”