that’s a hard row to climb

I think this is a mash up of “hard row to hoe” and “it’s an uphill climb”, both meaning a difficult situation to deal with.  The speaker may also have been thinking “road” instead of “row” and perhaps meant to say a “hard road ahead” or a “rocky road”, again meaning a challenging situation.  Farmers sometimes do terrace farming on hill sides, so the speaker may have been thinking rows to hoe uphill.   Who knows what lurks in the mind of the malaphor speaker?