"It may be just be a geographic quirk..."
I sort of agree with you on this, Doug, but I still wonder about the whole problem that VFTTers have with Lightnings. My two frequent hiking buddies and I do all of our winter hiking in the northeast, all three of us use Lightning Ascents, and none of us have ever had problems with them. I've had mine for five years, my friends for three or four years. We definitely don't go easy on them in the least (wearing them on bare rock, solid ice, stomping through spruce traps, etc.), but they don't show any sign of serious wear or breakage.
The cynical part of me thinks that it's just the people who have the problems are the most vocal, so you rarely hear from the folks who really like their Lightnings. But there are definitely a lot of those stories from northeast hikers, so the regional terrain could be a major factor.