The world of sport and Spanish skiing in particular is mourning the death of Olympic medallist Blanca Fernández Ochoa. The discovery of the former skier's body in the Sierra de Guadarrama on Wednesday brought an end to three days' intensive searching by the Guardia Civil, National Police, fire fighters and hundreds of volunteers in the Fuenfría valley, the Siete Picos and nearby hills and mountains.
The hope of finding Blanca alive, although injured, remained firm among the search team and her family, who never let themselves lose heart. Apart from being an expert skier, she was an experienced hiker and knew these mountains perfectly. She often used to go there alone and sleep outdoors. Sadly, though, when they found her she was dead.
The alarm was raised at about 12.30pm on Wednesday when an off-duty Guardia Civil officer was searching with his German Shepherd dog in the Collado del Rey area, close to the peak of La Peñota and on the boundary between the region of Madrid and Segovia province, and he found the body of a woman.
Officers from the Judicial Police force say the body appeared to be that of the 56-year-old, and from the state of decomposition she had probably died at least a week earlier. Various boxes of pills were found next to Blanca's body and the only equipment she was carrying was a shoulder belt.
The police had an idea of where to search because a local man said he had seen Blanca on 24 August and she had told him she planned to go up to the peak of La Peñota, which is about 1,945 metres above sea level and is not considered technically dangerous for hikers.
The area was cordoned off so the Missing Persons Group and the Scientific Police could carry out their work. A judge from Collado Villalba also attended the scene and authorised the removal of the body. The authorities have said the investigation is being carried out under judicial secrecy, and have asked people not to speculate about what had happened, as it would only cause additional pain for the family.