Last selfie of Brit hiker missing in Pyrenees as boyfriend tells of heartbreak

This is the last selfie of a British woman who has gone missing during a solo hiking trip in the Pyrenees, leaving her longtime boyfriend “shattered”.

Esther Dingley, 37, and her boyfriend Dan Colegate have been travelling around Europe in a camper van since 2014 after Dan nearly died from a flesh-eating disease.

Dan, 38, stayed behind at a farm in Gascony when Esther set out to hike alone from the Porte de la Glere to the Port de Venasque, a trek which follows the border between France and Spain, a month ago.

The Oxford University graduates, from Durham, last spoke on WhatsApp on November 22 when Esther sent a selfie from the Pic de Sauvegarde mountain, and 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.”

Esther failed to return as planned last Wednesday. French police said six search teams and helicopters have been out looking for her.

Snow has been falling in the area and the temperature has dropped below zero.

Esther and Dan, who is involved in the search, have been travelling with their five dogs and documenting their adventures on a website and on social media.

Dan shared Esther’s selfie in a Facebook post on Saturday, writing: “I’m broken. Shattered to report that my beloved Esther, the person who taught me how to feel, is missing.

Brit Missing During Month-long Solo Pyrenees Trek

“She has was last seen six days ago when she sent me this photo. Search and rescue teams have so far found no trace of her.

“The only purpose of this post is to ask for prayers, thoughts, candles and whatever you have.

“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.”

He told the BBC: “She always tried to keep in touch but sometimes on her hikes was out of contact for a couple of days. This is not looking good.”

Esther started walking from Benasque, Spain, on November 21 and was planning to spend the night of November 22 at Refuge de Venasque in France.

Witnesses told the Civil Guard in Spain they saw Esther on Pic de Sauvegarde last Sunday, according to French police.

The Civil Guard, which was notified of the missing hiker at about 8pm on Wednesday, said Esther was last seen wearing a short sleeve T-shirt, black leggings and hiking boots.

It said her camper van was found in the town of Benasque and searches have been taking place since Thursday, the Diario del Alto Aragon reported.

The Peloton de Gendarmerie de Haute Montagne, in France, said it was “actively searching” for Esther.

A spokesperson for the mountain gendarmerie unit told the BBC: “The problem is that we are in lockdown here so there aren’t that many hikers on the paths.

“Nobody has come forward with any information about her.”

Teams were planning to search more inaccessible areas on Monday while the weather remains good.

Friend Lena Zucher said Esther has “so much experience” of hiking outdoors and “just loves to be in nature”.

Lena told ITV News she was “really shocked” when she found out her friend was missing.

Until Saturday, Covid-19 lockdown laws in France prohibited people from travelling more than one kilometre (two-thirds of a mile) from their home for exercise or outdoor activities. The radius is now 20km (12.5 miles) as the country remains under its second national lockdown.

In Spain, there is a nightly curfew and people’s movements for non-essential purposes are restricted.

Esther and Dan, who have been together for 18 years, left their jobs and rented out their flat in Durham when they set out on their adventure in 2014.

Esther ran her own personal training firm and Dan worked as a business development manager.

They decided to make a major change after battling depression and after Dan nearly died of necrotising fasciitis, a flesh-eating disease, they told the BBC just days before Esther disappeared.

Esther had battled with chronic fatigue sparked by her own mental health struggles.

Before she went missing, the couple wrote on their joint Facebook page: “Since then we’ve thru-hiked in the Alps many times, crashed a hot air balloon by the Nile, been free-diving in the Mediterranean Sea, adopted a dog who surprised us by being pregnant, and completely changed the way we view the beautiful world we all share.

“Today we continue to travel, now with five dogs in our furry, fun, laughter-filled motorhome.

“Our priorities are living in the moment, appreciating the little things in life and sharing those things that inspire us the most.

“Every morning we wake up and ask ‘what adventures will we have today?'”

A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “Our staff are supporting the family of a British woman reported missing in the Pyrenees”.