The required operating range for hydraulic machines is continually extended in an effort to integrate renewable energy sources with unsteady power outputs into the existing electrical grid. The off-design operation however brings forth unfavorable flow patterns in the machine, causing dynamic problems involving cavitation, which may represent a limiting factor to the energy production. In Francis turbines it is observed that the self-excited oscillation of a vortex rope in the draft tube cone prevents the delivery of maximum power when required. This phenomenon is referred to as full load pressure surge and has been the object of extensive research during the past decades. Several contributions deepened its understanding through measurement and simulation of the local flow properties and the global stability parameters. The draft tube pressure level and the runner outlet swirl are identified as key variables in the modelling of the vortex rope dynamics. Recently, a cyclic appearance of blade cavitation has been observed at overload conditions in a multiphase numerical simulation coupling the runner and the draft tube. From the analysis of the simulation it becomes obvious that the cyclic appearance of blade cavitation has a direct effect on the runner outlet swirl, thus introducing an additional interaction mechanism that is not accounted for in formerly published models. For the presented work, the results of this numerical study are confirmed experimentally on a reduced scale model of a Francis turbine. Several wall pressure measurements in the draft tube cone are performed, together with high speed visualizations of the vortex rope and the blade cavitation. The flow swirl is calculated based on Laser Doppler Velocimetry measurements. A possible mechanism explaining the coupling between the self-excited pressure and vortex rope oscillation and the cyclic appearance of the blade cavitation is proposed. Furthermore, the streamwise propagation speed of the flow swirl in the draft tube is calculated. The results offer important insights in the physics of high load pressure surge and contribute to the further development of numerical draft tube flow and stability models.