We have our fair share of decent climbs and no end of wind... advantage to the half step and a granny is being able to run larger chain ring and cog combinations when it is flatter or rolling terrain and then having that granny to bail you out when the roads points upward and your bike is carrying 40 pounds of gear. Our terrain here was carved by receding glaciers so it is one valley after the next and if you head West or South it is mostly upwards with shallower grades that seem to go on forever.
This bike just has a half step... with a 5 speed block it gets 9 speeds with no duplication of gears and has a 40 gear inch low which will get me up some pretty decent hills albeit unloaded as this bike rarely carries much more than me.
My expedition bike needs to carry me and the aforementioned gear so the half step and granny is quite wonderful and there is only one duplicate gear on this 18 speed set up that has a 23 to 91 gear inch range. The duplicate gear is found at opposite ends of the range in the small / small and large / 26 (2nd from bottom) and the best combination for this is the middle chain ring and middle cog which is most efficient.
We used to stage a "Bridges" ride here where we rode across every bridge in the city (I think we are up to 18) and at the end of the day the Garmin indicated that in doing this we had climbed 6000 feet in total... people usually don't ride into the river valley to enjoy the trails or paved routes unless they have a bike with decent climbing gears as you will always have no trouble finding grades in excess of 10% and the trails can be even more severe.
I love riding in the valley... have set up one road bike with a fairly low end to make climbing less painful and the other is geared for flatter riding.