French authorities search for British hiker missing in the Pyrenees

Anna Pujol-Mazzini
Esther Dingley had been due to end her solo trek on Wednesday
Esther Dingley had been due to end her solo trek on Wednesday

French authorities are "actively" searching for British hiker Esther Dingley, 37, who went missing while trekking in the Pyrenees during a strict lockdown in the country.

Her partner Dan Colegate, who she had been traveling with on a six-year campervan tour of Europe, said he last heard from his partner on November 22 when she sent a picture from a mountaintop on the border between France and Spain.

A British woman who has spent six years on a campervan tour of Europe has gone missing while walking in the Pyrenees. She is pictured here with her boyfriend Dan Colgate in September - -/Facebook
A British woman who has spent six years on a campervan tour of Europe has gone missing while walking in the Pyrenees. She is pictured here with her boyfriend Dan Colgate in September - -/Facebook

"I'm broken. Shattered to report that my beloved Esther, the person who taught me how to feel, is missing," Mr Colegate said on the couple's Facebook page. "Search and rescue teams have so far found no trace of her."

Ms Dingley had left last Sunday and was due to return from her hike in the Luchon area on Wednesday. Her last known location is believed to be on the Pic de Sauvegarde.

She had started walking from Benasque in Spain on the Saturday and had plans to spend the Sunday night at Refuge Venasque in France, Mr Colegate told the BBC.

The area's mountain police force said they were "actively" searching for the woman, whose hike was forbidden under lockdown rules which until this weekend forbade walkers from going more than one kilometer from their house and walking for more than an hour.

"The sole purpose of this message is to safeguard human life. While we understand the emotion aroused by this behavior during this time of confinement, please do not comment on it. We are here in an emergency situation," the Peloton de Gendarmerie de Haute Montagne in Luchon said.

Ms Dingley poses with her partner, Dan Colegate, in front of a lake - Facebook
Ms Dingley poses with her partner, Dan Colegate, in front of a lake - Facebook

The couple lived in Durham until 2014, when they decided after a health scare to buy a motorhome to tour through Europe. Since then, they have been hiking, cycling and driving around with their five dogs, including on many mountain hikes. Ms Dingley had been on several solo treks too.

Mr Colegate, who had been staying at a farm in Gascony, has made his way to the area to support search and rescue teams who have deployed dogs and helicopters. The couple were due to reunite after a month apart.

Ms Dingley is pictured with Mr Colgate as they set off in their European tour in 2014, pictured with their camper van which they nicknamed 'Homer' - Facebook
Ms Dingley is pictured with Mr Colgate as they set off in their European tour in 2014, pictured with their camper van which they nicknamed 'Homer' - Facebook

A spokesman for the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office confirmed they were aware of the incident, saying: "Our staff are supporting the family of a British woman reported missing in the Pyrenees."