In this case gearing.
Are the mountains out west that much more difficult than the mountains in the east? They are longer but are they that much steeper?
I just got back from a nice 2800+ mie trip from NH-St Louis-NH. The comeback leg I followed RAAM from Athens, OH to Hancock, MD. I rode pretty much the entire ride in the big(52) chainring. I only dropped down twice(once in NY going west, and then on the last climb into Hancock) to the small chainring and knowing what I know now, if I wouldn't have had the time pressure I wouldn't have shifted to the small chainring for the last climb into Hancock. The climb west out of Cazenovia, NY I climbed a 400+ foot per mile climb, roughly 1.25 miles long, ina 52x19. That's with 35 pounds on my back, yes back not in a pannier.
I'm a little lost here. Are the climbs out wet that much worse or is it because of who you are replying to the reason you are telling people to go with granny gears. I don't see the reason for triple chainrings or 12-36. Heck I only have a 11-28 on Specialized Allez. Most of the trip I rode a 52x17/19. Only a few times did I ever drop lower than that.