Police race to find missing 'van life' blogger before snow storm

Police race to find missing British ‘van life’ travel blogger before snow storm that will bury the Pyrenees mountains until spring after she vanished on solo hike

  • Esther Dingley has been missing for six days after hiking in the Pyrenees
  • Police are hunting for the British travel blogger with helicopters in the mountains
  • But a large snow storm is expected to arrive on Tuesday, hindering their efforts 

Spanish police are scouring the Pyrenees in a helicopter for missing British hiker Esther Dingley as they continue their search six days after her disappearance.

Footage released on Tuesday shows the helicopter crossing rocky outcrops and icy peaks on the border between Spain and France as they raced to find her before a snowstorm sweeps over the mountains.

The storm is expected to arrive on Tuesday evening, which will likely be the start of the winter dump on the mountain range. 

Ms Dingley vanished while hiking alone from the Porte de la Glere to the Port de Venasque, along the border.

Esther Dingley, 37, was hiking the Pyrenees mountains on the border between France and Spain when she vanished last week

Despite being missing for six days, Spanish police broadened the search on Tuesday for the trekker who vanished last week.

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.’

Dan Colegate, the British partner of missing hiker Esther Dingley, was searching for her alone in the Pyrenees last night

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

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.’

On Monday, he added in a new post on social media: ‘ I just wanted to write a short thank you for all the support and messages that have arrived in the past few days.

‘I want to write a more complete update soon, but as of now there is still no sign of Esther anywhere in the area she was intending to explore, despite extensive searching from both sides of the border.

‘I am going to do some more walking myself now before the sun goes down.’

The 37-year-old from Durham was on a month-long solo trip and was supposed to return on Wednesday

At one point in the Spanish police film, the helicopter hovers over a lone woman on a hillside while an officer, using a microphone, asks her: ‘Are you Esther?’

The woman shakes her head as if to say no. Then the officer asks if she is Spanish and she nods in agreement before the helicopter flies away.

A spokesman for Spain’s Civil Guard said: ‘We have broadened the search to nearby hills and the search party has increased. We are not only using mountain rescue personnel but also all members of the environmental team who are available in the Huesca area. We continue to keep an open mind about where Ms Dingley might be now.’

French police sent a search team of sixteen people up the mountain on Monday along with national police experts.

Ms Dingley had started on Saturday from Benasque, Spain and was planning to spend Sunday night at Refuge Venasque, France

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.’

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.

Spanish authorities were alerted on November 25 of her disappearance and alerted their French counterparts the following morning. They found her vehicle on the Spanish side of the border.

Miss Dingley was a yoga enthusiast who had been a private trainer before giving up her career to travel around Europe

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.

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.’

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