The boyfriend of a British hiker who went missing in the Pyrenees last November has restarted his own search as official rescuers wait for the snow to melt.
Dan Colegate, 38, said he has moved to an area near the 8,976ft Pic de Sauvegarde to search lower altitudes himself.
The official search for missing hiker Esther Dingley had to be suspended when thick snow made it too dangerous to continue over the winter.
Mr Colegate vowed he would continue to search because ‘it is all I can do’ while he waits for the official search to begin again.
He said: ‘The mountain rescue search for Esther in the Pyrenees has not yet officially resumed.
Esther Dingley is pictured with her boyfriend Dan Colegate, who she last spoke to on 22 November 2020
‘In the last fortnight I have met with both the Spanish and French search and rescue units and both have confirmed that they intend to repeat their searches with all possible efforts, but only once the snow has completely cleared from the area in order that their activities can be effective and thorough.’
He said snow still blanketed the peak of the mountain close to Ms Dingley’s route, making it impossible for the official search to resume.
‘That said, I have been in the area myself for the past few weeks and have been closely exploring the lower altitude portions of the region, paying particular attention to the woodlands immediately bordering her proposed route, possible alternative trails and also in the valley between her last known location and Benasque village,’ he said.
The official search for missing hiker Ms Dingley (pictured) had to be suspended when thick snow made it too dangerous to continue over the winter
Ms Dingley last made contact with her boyfriend on November 22 from the top of the 9,000ft peak (pictured together above)
‘Although I still find it very hard to understand why Esther was not found in November if she had suffered an accident, a feeling that deepens the more time I spend in the area, I will continue to search because it is all I can do.’
He said he was passing any information about his search using a GPS device and would pass the information to the police and search teams.
‘I remain grateful for the support and the efforts of all of the many professionals involved in the search for Esther,’ he said.
‘It is not my place to comment on the specifics of their activities, but I am in no doubt that they have done and will continue to do all they can.’
French police dismissed the possibility a third party may have been involved in her disappearance. Pictured: A map showing the likely route she was taking
Ms Dingley, whose last contact with her boyfriend was around 4pm on November 22 from the top of 8,976ft Pic de Sauvegarde, was expected to spend the night in an unmanned shelter on the French side of the border but it is not known if she ever arrived.
Spanish Civil Guard mountain rescue experts had indicated earlier this year they hoped to resume the search around the mountain peak in April or May but admitted it could be July before it restarted depending on the weather in spring.
Mr Colegate insisted in a Facebook post at the start of February he did not think Oxford University graduate Ms Dingley had suffered an accident in the mountains.
He also ruled out a voluntary disappearance, rubbishing claims they were having relationship difficulties. A witness who spent time with Ms Dingley before she vanished told police she was unhappy with her boyfriend.
Mr Colegate said in a Facebook post: ‘I believe somebody else has been involved in Esther’s disappearance and against her will.
‘This is a terrifying prospect and I wish I could believe otherwise, but I can’t.’
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