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Hypothermia likely in mountain hiker death

The body of missing bushwalker Esther Wallace was found on Mount Canobolas after an 11-day search.

The body of missing bushwalker Esther Wallace was found on Mount Canobolas after an 11-day search. Photo: AAP

A woman who vanished in the middle of the night on a rugged mountain in NSW likely died in a “terrible accident”, police say.

Esther Wallace, 47, was reported missing on the morning of November 30 after becoming separated from her partner at the Federal Falls trail on Mount Canobolas, 20 kilometres west of Orange in the state’s central west.

The pair arrived at the popular walking track and camping spot in the early hours before sunrise.

Police rescue crews and State Emergency Service volunteers spent 11 days searching through thick scrub and rocky bushland for any trace of Ms Wallace, who was last seen wearing an orange jacket, black pants and sandals.

Body found in dense bushland

Her body was found on Sunday afternoon in dense bushland about two kilometres north of where she was last seen.

Inspector David Maher from the Central West police district said Ms Wallace is believed to have died of hypothermia.

“It’s just a terrible accident, we believe,” Insp Maher told AAP on Monday.

The Orange region experienced weather extremes of below-zero temperatures, rain and dry heat in the days Ms Wallace was missing.

Insp Maher said officers from the criminal investigation unit will continue to make inquiries, and a report is being prepared for the coroner.

“At this time, it’s not suspicious.”

Several items of clothing discovered

Before Ms Wallace’s body was discovered, search parties found several items of clothing including a white crochet coat and an orange jacket.

As the search entered its second week, police cautioned the community about speculating on what may have happened, saying Ms Wallace’s partner wasn’t a suspect and had provided useful information.

Central West commander Acting Superintendent Gerard Lawson on Friday said some of the more “bizarre” elements of the disappearance had been addressed by the police investigation, though he declined to elaborate.

On Monday, a friend of Ms Wallace wrote on Facebook: “RIP my best friend, my soul sister, it’s not goodbye it’s I’ll see you later.”

-AAP

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