The chances of survival of a British woman who has been missing for eight days after an illegal migration are “extremely low,” search teams said today.
37-year-old Esther Dingley has been missing in the Pyrenees for more than a week.
Despite a large-scale search over steep cliffs and mountain lakes, search teams have not found any “trace” of her.
Today, a spokesman for the French High Mountain Police said snow is now falling and temperatures are only -10 ° C in the area where she was last seen.
He said: “The chances of finding this young woman alive are extremely slim given the temperatures at this altitude.
“There is nothing to be seen of the yellow tent she took with her, and her dark clothes could make it difficult to find.”
The spokesman confirmed that Ms. Dingley’s solo hike, which began last Saturday week, was banned under French lockdown laws, which prohibit people from traveling more than half a mile from home or walking more than an hour.
Spanish rescuers found her car abandoned in the town of Benasque, where she began her walk, before disappearing.
Specialists from the GREIM Civil Guard team started their search on Tuesday, along with teams from the French side of the border.
Officials using helicopters and sniffer dogs have been looking for Ms. Dingley, 37, who is originally from Durham.
But despite “extensive sweeping” of the harsh landscape in which she was last seen, there was no sign of her.
She was in an area notorious for hiking accidents, including a fatal accident when a young woman who was a seasoned mountain hiker died as recently as 2017.
In July 2017, a 31-year-old French woman lost her life in front of her partner after a rock she was holding on to for support came loose and she fell.
Workers at the Vénasque Refuge that Ms. Dingley wanted to spend last Sunday evening visited the scene but were unable to save it.
A patrol from the High Mountain Police of Bagnères de Luchon – the unit that carried out the search for Ms. Dingley – was also present.
Ms. Dingley spoke to her boyfriend Dan Colegate on WhatsApp last Sunday when she was on the Pic de Sauvegarde, a 2,738m high mountain on the French-Spanish border.
It was on an unmarked but popular trail that is full of hikers in the summer months, enjoying views of the surrounding lakes and cliffs.
However, due to the cold weather and the coronavirus pandemic, the path has been relatively empty in recent weeks.
In a Facebook post on Saturday, Mr Colegate shared the last picture Mrs Dingley had sent him before she went missing.
He wrote, “The only purpose of this post is to ask for prayers, thoughts, candles, and whatever you have.
“I didn’t say anything, but this wonderful person believes in the power of positive thinking and for 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 going back to the search now so I can’t reply to comments or messages. Sorry for the rush and inadequacy of these words.”
Ms. Dingley and Mr. Colegate have been traveling the world with their five dogs since 2014 and documenting their adventures on a blog called Esther and Dan.
Mrs. Dingley had taken her van on the last trip she wanted to make herself.
It was due to end on Wednesday while Mr Colegate stayed in Gascony, France.
A spokesman for headquarters in Huesca, south of the central Pyrenees, said: “If anyone has any information about the missing woman, we ask them to contact us immediately.”