Missing Brit hiker ‘may not be found for five years if she fell on glacier’
A British hiker missing in the Pyrenees may not be found for five years if she fell on a glacier, a veteran guide claims.
Oxford graduate and travel blogger Esther Dingley, 37, was walking alone through rugged terrain when she was last seen on November 22.
She had set out to hike from the Port de la Glere to the Port de Venasque, a trek which follows the border between France and Spain, according to local police.
Esther, who had previously lived in Durham, had been travelling throughout Europe since 2014 with her longtime partner Dan Colegate, who has dismissed a police theory that she deliberately vanished in search of a new life.
She was expected to return from a solo trek on December 2.
Snow now covers the mountain range and a search by French and Spanish authorities has been suspended.
A number of theories has been proposed, including whether Esther suffered a mountain accident, whcih Spain’s Civil Guard says is the “most probable” cause of her disappearance.
It has been speculated that she fell while crossing an icy stretch of Mount Maladeta, close to the Spanish town of Benasque, where Esther had parked her camper van and set out on a five-day solo hike.
Guide Patrick Lagleize told the Sun he suspects a mountain accident occurred.
He added: “My theory is that she probably fell while on the glacier and that means it could take five years for her to be found as we have to wait for it to melt and descend.
“Five years is nothing though, in the Alps some people who go missing are not found for 25-30 years as that’s how long it takes those ones to melt.
“I think that in a few years time someone hiking in the spring or summer will sadly find her.”
Earlier this week, Dan said he spoke to Esther every day and that her walk on November 22, when she was last seen, was to be her final excursion before returning home.
He stayed behind at a farm in southern France while she went on the hike.
In a statement issued through the Lucie Blackman Trust (LBT), he said: “We were missing each other. The hike she went missing on was to be her last hike before driving back.
“Our last conversation was totally loving and all smiles. She was so happy, and we were excited to see each other.”
Miss Dingley’s mother Ria stressed that it was highly unusual for her daughter not to get in touch for this long, and said her family are “utterly distraught”.
She said: “It is utterly out of character for her to be out of contact for this length of time and we are missing her desperately.
“Esther values family above everything and on all her trips we are always in regular contact, sharing the day to day small details of life.
“We communicated several times every day.”
The Times reported that French police could not discount one theory that she had gone off in search of a new life.
But Dan said: “This summer we did a 1000-mile hike together and we always planned to spend 2 weeks doing our own thing afterwards, because we knew it was good for us as individuals and for our relationship.
“We had just spent 80 days in the wilderness with just each other for company. I wanted to relax in a house due to my health issues, Esther wanted to take advantage of the mild autumn and do some more outdoor things.
“That was why she went touring solo; it was pre-planned and agreed upon. It was a non-event for us. We had done it before.”
As an experienced hiker, he believes it is unlikely that his partner of 19 years met with an accident.