If I may (as a well meaning interloper
) offer a suggestion: take a look at the Fantom Pro 29 from bikesdirect for $1,195 delivered. They offer (and have in stock) a 13" frame 29er bike that has an 'effective top tube' length of 22.7" which is about 1/2" shorter than the Niner EMD which is rated for riders from 5'3" to 5'9". It also has a lower standover height than the Niner.
They have an almost identically spec'd model (for $1,495) they claim weighs 26.5lbs in size small (15").
The downside to buying from bikesdirect is that they are mail order in every sense of the word, but the parts spec is pretty impressive for that price point. If you really didn't care for it, you could always get a frame you like better down the road and move the parts over to that and still be money ahead.
Just a thought.
One of the ladies that rides with us has been looking at upgrading from her current 1996 Giant Iguana 26" hardtail (hence the reason I am lurking here now) and has been demo riding a few different Rocky Mountain bikes lately. For her, it has also come down to a 26" FS or 29er hardtail. She likes them both, and she seems to be a little faster on the 29er hardtail, but is having trouble deciding on one over the other.
It's a shame you can't get a test ride. Good luck getting a rig that suits you.