It's a good thing the Blipmap/spot were unavailable for 21Z this morning. Otherwise I wouldn't have attempted flying Panoche. Only upon arriving home tonight did I see the predicted 6,300 BL Top and 5,300 Hcrit on the Panoche Blipspot.
I launched a bit after 1pm and took a higher tow just in case EL1 wasn't working. It wasn't. So I hung a right and followed the edge of the valley, planning to end up on the south side of the airstrip where I hoped to find a decent thermal in the hills. Half way there, I got sick of flying thru 6-8 knots down and cut across.
I spent the next hour and a quarter between 4,000 and 5,000 feet and finding occasional thermals that'd get me above 6,000. Each time, I'd use that altitude to venture off in a different direction in search of better lift. I'd get shot down and try again.
Eventually, I tried going east and got shot down. At about 4,000 I decided there was no way to make it back to Hollister. I just wanted to gain enough altitude to call a tow plane and say "if you don't hear from me in 30 minutes, come get me."I made one more pass, this time a bit farther south, to look for lift before heading in to land and calling HGC.
I hit an 8-10 knot thermal that ultimately took me to 7,200 feet. At that point, I had Bikle in glide but Hollister was a 32:1 glide away. I decided this was my exit for the day and turned toward Bikle. I kept a good eye on the my glide and sink rate along the way. Things improved as I cruised along. I arrived at 4,000 feet over Bikle, having encountered virtually no sink along the way. The GPS said Hollister was in glide (23:1) and it looked right, so I kept going.
20 minutes later, I was entering the pattern for runway 24 at about 2,300 feet.
Total time: 2.2 hours.